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A marathon triumph much larger than us all

Xs and Arrows

Another marathon has come and gone. Another? I say that with as much disbelief as the next guy. A year ago I was one and done, now my recent running of the LA Marathon was my third full marathon completion. Unreal.

But you know plenty about my story by now. I have a lot of others to share about from this year's LA Marathon. First, congrats to all seven Tehachapi runners that completed the full marathon this year, including Tehachapi High School Baseball coach Guy Dees who apparently, I convinced to do this and as expected he crushed the course running a 4:40:38 time. He was also surprised by much of his baseball team who came down to the finish to see their coach pull it off.

While I have shared with you much of my "marathon testimony," I really want to focus on Jonathon Plasencia, a man who was first to sign up with Team World Vision when I brought it forward to Mountain Bible Church this past fall. Jonathon is a local resident, father, firefighter and leads the youth ministries at MBC.

At 366 days prior to this year's LA Marathon Jonathon was released from his wheelchair by doctors. Why was he in a wheelchair? He was involved in a debilitating car accident on the way to work a few months prior that required surgeries and confinement in a wheelchair for several months.

Part of Jonathon's recovery was the assurance by his doctors that he would never be able to do certain physical things ever again. Top of that list ... running. When Jonathon said yes to joining Team World Vision back in October he quickly told me, "ever since the doctors told me I would never run again I wanted to do this." We set out to prove those doctors wrong. Great motivation.

Jonathon's journey through all of this, including the marathon, was led by his faith. As I mentioned he is a pastor and active in youth ministries in Tehachapi. When he was sharing a little of his story with other Team World Vision runners prior to Sunday's race he said, "Doctors told me I would never run again, but my God is bigger than that." I encouraged Jonathon to share his story with the Team World Vision videographer and when he was done, I let him in on a little secret. I told him that for me it is writing, but I have found that once you share your story, you are more inclined to finish the task. That worked.

Jonathon struggled during training due to the lingering injuries as the impact of that car accident prevented much of his training from going smoothly. But he persisted through the pain.

I lost track of Jonathon on race day among the 11,000 other marathon competitors and frankly I was worried his injuries were catching up to him. The LA Marathon course includes a turnaround at mile 22, so for the last six miles of the course you are running counter to people either behind or in front of you. After I made my turn, I started looking for Jonathon on the other side of the course, thinking maybe the injuries had slowed him down, I was ready to shout encouragement as needed.

But, instead at mile 24 I hear this voice off my left hip, "What's up Corey?" I turned to find Jonathon right next to me. I said, "Jonathon, you feeling okay?"

"Yes sir," he replied as he kept his head down and motored right past and finished two minutes ahead of me. I immediately sent a text to our pastor to let him know Jonathon was not only going to finish, but beat me to the line. God was certainly bigger in that moment.

After the race he let me know that he was in so much pain when he passed me that he just had to put his head down and go for it, otherwise he wouldn't have made it. His wife Felicia was there with his kids along the course route, no one had a greater understanding of his struggles over the last year and a half than her. She thanked me for my influence, but I had nothing to do with it, I am just a larger than normal marathon runner who at the very least is proving to people that if I can do it, they can too.

One year after he shed the wheelchair Jonathon Plasencia of Tehachapi, California defied the odds and medical professionals to complete the 26.2 miles of the LA Marathon on his own two feet, and on the shoulders of a God who did not have to prove it, but used an instrument in Jonathon to show just how big he is.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter, broadcaster and athletics administrator. He advocates for the value of athletic competition and serves as the President of the Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club. He can be reached at [email protected].