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Marathons Provide Inspiration For One Special Athlete

Date June 15, 2015

He needs help brushing his teeth and choosing clothes.

He does not fully understand time or distance.

And when he runs, guides accompany Jonathan Brunot to ensure he manages his water intake and electrolytes.

Brunot is on the severe end of the autism spectrum and is an adult in the Lifelong Learning program at the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg. He takes part in a day-habilitation program, which includes vocational outreach at the Culinary Institute of America.

But none of that has stopped the 26-year-old Wappingers Falls resident from running marathons — 16 of them in the past seven years, including Saturday’s Walkway Marathon.

He has completed six New York City Marathons, one Ultra Marathon (30.1 miles) and seven Boston Marathons.

“Jonathan is a beast,” said his brother, Verlaine Brunot, who planned to run the final five kilometers of the race with Jonathan. “I wanted to run the last six miles. I am strong, but not that strong. At 5K (3.1 miles), I can stay with him and not slow him down.”

That wasn’t always the case. When Jonathan first enrolled in a running program, he had to be pulled or pushed around a track just to complete a lap.

“He would walk every time he got tired, which was 10, 15 or 20 times per lap on the track,” Verlaine Brunot said.

Things got so bad that his mother, Olga Brunot, once passed out after conveying her son around a five-kilometer training run.

That, his mother said, was as close as the family came to giving up on running.

But with help from Steve Cuomo and Vincent Del-Cid, two coaches in the Long Island-based Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program, Jonathan began to make strides.

Del-Cid is a certified public accountant by trade, and a longtime endurance athlete based in Long Island.

“There is one reason I do this — for the mothers,” he said, becoming visibly moved as the Brunot family prepared for Saturday’s marathon. “They go through so much.”

Little by little, Jonathan ran longer and more consistently, losing 20-25 pounds. His family was ecstatic.

That’s when Del-Cid suggested marathons.

“We were highly resistant to it at first,” Verlaine Brunot said. “It seemed insane. We were saying, ‘Here we are playing with house money. Jonathan happens to love running. Why would we go ruin it by making him run a million miles?’”