Quaker Valley middle schooler overcomes obstacles, completes marathon
David Graham has spent his free time preparing for one of his biggest accomplishments to date: the Houston Marathon.
At 14 years old, the Quaker Valley eighth-grader completed his first full marathon Jan. 14 in Houston in under five hours.
Encouraged by his oldest sister Lauren (who completed her first marathon last year at the age of 16), David was inspired to train in preparation for this year's Houston Marathon & Half Marathon. His twin sister Cassidy and older sister Taylor also are runners and ran the half marathon, with Lauren as the siblings' unofficial leader.
With any amount of success, however, are obstacles, and David is no exception. His mother Robyn recalls when David was a baby — and extremely sick — sleeping with a heart and oxygen monitor until he was about 5 or 6 years old. David also suffered a fractured foot in October 2016 from a soccer injury, which required two casts. That didn't stop him from completing the LaPorte Bridge Half Marathon in Texas in 2016 — which he completed with a foot cast and leg scooter.
“I feel very fortunate to be a normal, healthy kid now,” David said. “Sports was not always easy for me because of my past health. My mom is my biggest fan. She encourages me to be the best I can be. My dad is supportive, too.”
Robyn said all four of her children are good students who are kind to others, something David says is extremely important in their home.
“My mom expects us to put forth our best effort with whatever we choose to do — but school comes first with her house rules,” David said.
The eighth-grader finds challenges with balancing his training with “being a kid,” but tries his hardest to get plenty of sleep. He is part of the Quaker Valley Middle School's cross country team, and said his diet consists of “eating a lot of carbs when I am running long distance and training during cross country season.”
Training itself was a bit difficult after the cross country season was over, though.
“Training for a full marathon at my age was complicated with my school schedule and other activities. The weather was not very cooperative, either. Mileage was easy to get during the cross country season, but when it was over, I would run when I could. Other core work at home helped to build the strength needed to complete the 26-mile event,” David said. “I was very sore after the 26 miles, but most everybody is sore, even after a half marathon.”
“Long distance running requires mental skills as well as a physical skill. I've been fortunate that my running coaches here in Pennsylvania and in Texas have supported me with life skills as well as physical skills,” David said. “My mom also believes in mental coaches and has made that available for me and by siblings.”
Assuring her children that positive effort attributes to productivity as an adult, all four of Robyn's children run for specific causes and organizations.
“My four kids raised over $3,000 for their chosen charities,” Robyn said. “David raised $875 alone toward his charity for Juvenile Diabetes.”
David said, “Raising money for children with type one diabetes makes me feel like I am contributing toward a good cause. I encourage others who are healthy to run for a reason to raise money for their cause.”
Christina Sheleheda is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.