Shaler boy with love for running doesn't let obstacles stop him

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Roman Salamon might have more obstacles in his path than the typical elementary school student, but when he gets to the starting line, he always finishes the race.

Doctors diagnosed Roman, 7, of Shaler Township, with autism when he was 2 years old.

Roman does not speak with words, but there is no mistake that he loves to run.

The Marzolf Primary School student has completed several races — that range from 1 mile to 4.1 miles — since he started his young running career last year.

“Everybody knows Roman and cheers for him,” said his mother, Jennifer Salamon, of Shaler. “He has the biggest cheering section.”

Salamon started running three years ago as a way to stay in shape and keep up with Roman, who also plays baseball and soccer. Salamon and her husband, Mike, signed up to run the 2012 Pittsburgh Marathon on a relay team and decided to sign Roman up for the 1-mile Kids' Marathon.

“We thought it would be fun for Roman to do the fun run, and that's where it started,” Jennifer Salamon said.

Since then, Roman has earned four medals for various races he has run, which hang alongside his parents' race medals in the family's hallway. His most recent medal, and current favorite, is from last month's Pittsburgh Penguins 6.6K Run and Family Walk to benefit the Mario Lemieux Foundation.

“It doesn't seem to click for him until he gets his bib on … then he wants to go,” Jennifer Salamon said. “Once it's time to run, he's ready to take off.”

Roman's parents belong to the Steel City Road Runners Club, whose members also have supported Roman every step of the race.

“The running community is embracing younger runners now, especially Roman,” said Steel City Road Runners Club member Shannon Gaghan of Mars. “He is one of the happiest kids when he's running; he always has a big smile on his face. He may not talk, but he'll let you know he's very, very happy when he's running with his squeals. He dances at the end (of the race).”

Gaghan said Roman also is an inspiration to other runners in the club and thinking of his joy in running has helped motivate her when training gets tough.

“Seeing him do it makes it all worthwhile,” she said. “He's got a couple of things stacked against him, and he's going for it anyway. His happiness is contagious and his smile is 50 million watts.”

Sharon Shearer, Roman's physical education teacher at Marzolf Primary, said she also is encouraging Roman's athleticism during class. While other students are running two laps around the track, she pushes Roman to go for four, which he completes easily.

Shearer said the public perception of autism is that a person can't accomplish the same things as a typical person, and Roman is proof that the diagnosis does not have to be a limitation.

“People can do whatever they want to do as long as you put your mind to it, and I'm really proud of his parents for supporting him,” Shearer said. “They're not stopped by his limitations.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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