12-year-old will run with purpose Sunday
The Wagner family (from left) Mike, Cynthia and Luke.
Last year, Luke Wagner cheered for his father, Mike Wagner, along the route of the Columbus Marathon.
Roles will be reversed this year, as the 12-year-old Genoa Christian Academy seventh grader runs the Columbus Half Marathon Sunday, Oct. 21.
Like his father, Luke will run to raise money for Parkinson's disease in honor of his grandfather, who died of the ailment just weeks ago. He also will run to raise money for ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, from which a neighbor recently died.
Luke simply states his motivation for running the marathon.
"I wanted to raise money, and my dad did it last year," Luke Wagner said. "I just like helping other people."
His mother, Cynthia Wagner, said she wasn't surprised by Luke's decision. In the past, he's raised money for different causes by selling lemonade or the golf balls he collects on the course near his home.
"It didn't surprise us, and we knew he'd stick to it," Cynthia Wagner said.
What did surprise her, however, was that Luke has decided that he will run the entire half marathon, and he trained all summer with that end it mind, often rising early in the morning to beat the record heat.
"When he first came up with the idea this summer, I was thinking, 'Just finish (the race),'" Mrs. Wagner said. "I've learned to admire the mindset of the summer."
Luke joined his school's track team last year.
To start working toward a long-distance run, he looked up training plans online and got some good advice from him track coach, he said. From there, it was just a matter of hitting the roads around his house and the Genoa Township trails running.
"I started off short, one to two miles, and I kept building," Luke said.
He estimates that he ran between 15 and 20 miles each week, and recently ran a straight 11 miles as the race drew nearer.
His parents occasionally would join him on runs, but his father said he'll sit out the marathon this year to sit and cheer on his son.
"He's the one doing it this year. We're extremely proud of him," Mr. Wagner said.
With the half marathon looming less than a week away, Luke said he was feeling confident in his ability to run the whole thing.
His parents are behind him 100 percent.
"I keep telling him the adrenaline will carry him the last two miles," Mrs. Wagner said.
"If not, I'll carry him," Mr. Wagner added.
The Wagners all said they're excited to be a part of the marathon.
"It's an amazing day. It's an awesome, inspirational day. There are so many people (Downtown), and everyone is cheering one another on," Cynthia Wagner said.
Luke has set up his own fundraising page on the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research website, michaeljfox.org.
More information on the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon is available at columbusmarathon.com.