Joe's In the Press
Gwinnett Daily Post
Anytime you want, you can drop what you’re doing
and go running.
At any moment during the course of the day, even right now as you’re reading this article, you
can stop what you’re doing, put on your sneakers and sprint as fast as you can. To anywhere you want.
liberating. To feel that steady wind blowing against your face, to see trees, cars and neighbors appear on the horizon and
then disappear as you pass them by.
It can be a great feeling, a wonderful feeling, and Buford resident Paul Gwin wanted
to make sure his son, Skylar, got to experience it firsthand.
“He loves it, but he’s not able to do it himself
physically,” Paul said. “So if I can be his legs and he can enjoy it, then that’s what I’ll do. And
that’s what I’ll always do.”
Most parents say they would do anything for their children, but what
Paul is doing for his 16-year-old son goes way past anything most parents could ever imagine.
Skylar suffers from muscular
dystrophy, a genetic disease that progressively weakens and degenerates the skeletal muscles that control movement, and which
has him bound to a wheelchair.
On a late August night last year, the Gwins watched an HBO Real Sports segment about
Dick Hoyt and his son Rick, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy.
It was a heartwarming story about a father’s love
for his son, how he trained maniacally so he could push his son in marathons and triathalons around the nation — giving
Rick that feeling of competition, that feeling of wind rushing past him, that he had never enjoyed before.
it was an inspiration to the Gwins.
“When I said I wanted to start running races he said, ‘I want to do
them with you,’” Paul said. “And we had just seen the (segment) on ‘Team Hoyt,’ so we said let’s
The first practice, at Rhodes Jordan Park, didn’t go all that well. Paul, who was a soccer player
in college and continued to play in adult leagues until reinjuring his ankles a few years ago, admits he was about 30 pounds
overweight when the training began.
And that first day, pushing Skylar for three miles in a recently purchased runner
that was actually built to hold two infants, wasn’t a walk in the park.
“It was a lot harder than I thought
it would be,” Paul said with a laugh. “We took baby steps.”
But as the training continued, Paul got
in better and better shape. And Skylar started having more and more fun, which culminated when they completed their first
As Paul and Skylar came charging toward the finish line, the teenager that had never gotten to feel the
joy of racing before, raised his arms in triumph. Just like he saw in his favorite movie.
“He loves ‘Rocky,’”
Paul said, “and the very first race we did, when we got near the finish line — about 100 yards away — he
raised his hands up just like Rocky.”
Paul continued: “And a lot of family that came to watch that first
race, they were just bawling.”
What about the dad — was he emotional as well?
“I was just trying
to stand up,” Paul said with a laugh. “But (that first race) hooked me. It hooked me and this is something that
he absolutely loves. And as long as I can keep my legs moving, we’re going to keep doing this.”
been almost a year since that first race and now the sight of Paul pushing Skylar is a common one in the local running community.
They’ve run 5K races all over the metro area and they’ve won medals and trophies for finishing first in
their respective age groups — quite an accomplishment for Paul, who is pushing close to 100 pounds around the courses
“It’s been great,” Paul said. “We have a great time ... but our whole family is involved
with him. I’m the one pushing him, but that’s just for 30 minutes. The whole family is involved, from my parents
to his mother and my wife — I’m remarried — it’s a family affair. It really is.”
thing you notice when you talk to Paul about his running events with Skylar is the use of the word “we.”
makes sure to say it repeatedly. When talking about a trophy he says, “We won.” Or about a record time, he says
“That’s where we ran our personal best of 26:06.”
Make no mistake, even though one is literally doing
all the work, they are still very much a team.
“Yeah, we are a team,” Skylar says. “And
it was really awesome when I won the plaque.”
When Paul won his age-group at the Peachtree Prep 5K he let Skylar
receive the award. After all it was both of them out their on the course. It was both of them crossing the finish line. Heck,
Skylar (as he has done in every race they’ve competed in) actually crossed it first.
“It was amazing when
we won that,” Paul said. “Because usually when they’re handing those out you usually get a golf clap. But
the whole place went crazy when they called out our name and we went up there ... and he loves getting trophies.”
“We just love it,” interjects Skylar, who also enjoys playing sports like basketball, soccer and softball.
Paul, who helped start the “Average Joe Racing Team” last year as a way to get family and friends involved in
running as well, is hoping to move up to 10Ks sometime in the near future.
Hearing this, Skylar perks up.
want to do a 10K,” Skylar says.
“We’re going to do a 10K, buddy,” Paul responds. “In a
few months we’ll do a 10K.”
The love a parent feels for a child can sometimes be difficult to describe with
words. Almost impossible really.
But when you see a scene like this one — father and son, flying down the final
stretch of a 5K race, the crowd on both sides cheering them on and Skylar, seated in his “Chariot” runner, with
his arms raised in triumph — no words are needed.
And that’s when you realize something, too. Something
more important than trophies or plaques or cheering crowds.
At that precise moment you understand that, just like you,
Skylar Gwin can go running anytime he wants.