Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Runners Dedicated to Cause

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Runners Dedicated to Cause

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK WOODS

At some point on the final Saturday of this month, Paul Wilson's legs will feel wobbly.

He and five others plan to get up and, starting at 3 a.m., run a 5-mile loop, beginning at Treaty Oak Park and crossing over the Acosta and Main Street bridges.

And then they will do the loop again and again.

Eleven times. Fifty-five miles. The length of two marathons, plus some.

Wilson, 41, laughs and says it could get ugly, but they will finish.

His legs will feel weak. But it will be a good weakness, the kind that comes on gradually and runners embrace in their own masochistic way. Not the kind that he felt Sept. 5, 2008.

One minute he was standing in a delivery room at Baptist Medical Center Beaches, experiencing overwhelming joy as his wife, Amy, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The next he was hearing the doctor say there was a problem. Luke had been born with spina bifida - his spinal cord was protruding through his lower back - and needed to be taken to Wolfson Children's Hospital.

"I literally felt like I was going to fall to the floor," Wilson said.

He remembers getting in his car and following the ambulance down Butler Boulevard, feeling a surreal mix of happiness, fear, panic. And he remembers spending much of the next few weeks at Wolfson Children's Hospital, pacing the hallways as Luke underwent two surgeries. First because of the spina bifida, then because Luke developed hydrocephalus.

I've known Wilson for a while. And when I saw him at a local triathlon a few weeks later, I congratulated him on becoming a father and asked about the baby. He beamed, gushing about how well Luke was doing and how lucky we are to have a place like Wolfson in our city.

I didn't think much about this last comment at the time. But since then, I have. Thanks to Wilson, so have a lot of people.

A couple of months after Luke was born, his father was in a Bible study class at Ponte Vedra Presbyterian Church. The topic of discussion was "finding your passion and acting on it."

Wilson thought about how often there is something that tugs on our heart, something we'd like to get involved with but never quite find the time or energy. He decided he wanted to find the time and energy to do something for Wolfson Children's Hospital. He recalled how, when he had been pacing the hallways, he had seen a timetable of the hospital's history.

He decided he wanted to use one of his passions - running - to raise money and awareness. He talked to a friend from triathlon circles, Saswata Roy, a craniofacial surgeon at Wolfson.

When the hospital celebrated its next birthday, why not run 35 miles, one for each year of its life?

Or at least that's what Wilson thought he had dreamed up. But, as he explains with a laugh, apparently he was tired when he was looking at the timetable, calculating the age of the hospital. …

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