Nate Viands, 8, has been outrunning leukemia since he was three years old, so it’s no wonder his fortitude translates to long distance running, too.
The Pennsylvania boy blew everyone away when he clocked a speedy 3:32 at the NCR Marathon in Baltimore on Nov. 24. He started the race with his father, Scott Viands, but pulled away from his dad eight miles into the 26.2-mile course.
“He just took off,” Scott told Runner’s World. “Every once in a while at an aid station, I’d ask, ‘Did you see a little guy come through?’” and they’d be like, ‘yeah, he’s 10 minutes ahead of you.’”
Nate got his start in running at the age of 5, shortly after enduring nine months worth of painful chemotherapy rounds that left him housebound.
But, throughout it all, his parents never wanted him to identify himself as a sick child.
“I never wanted him to think he was sick,” Scott said. “A lot of these kids that get ill really get treated like they’re ill. I didn’t want him to think he was different.”
So, they encouraged Nate to get into skateboarding, cycling and, eventually, running. Nate’s first long distance run actually occurred by accident. Scott forgot to load Nate’s bike into the car so he could tag along during one of Scott’s training runs.
“I’m like, ‘alright, let’s go,’ and he ran like two or three miles with me, no problem, over rolling hills,” Scott explained. “I didn’t know how far to push it at the time, I was like that’s cool, and from there, the bike became less and less and the running became more and more.”
He began with shorter races, like 5Ks, and then pushed the distance to half marathons. During that time, he was able to stop chemo treatments and, as he regained energy and strength, he developed a yearning to do longer races.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Scott and Nate hiked 27.9 miles in two days through Catoctin Mountain Park in western Maryland. That made Scott realize that his son was up for a full fall marathon.
Nate trained hard and even took first place in a regional cross country championship the week before the big marathon.
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Then came his 3:32 finish in Baltimore.
“Given his backstory and everything that had gone on, I don’t want to say that he deserved it,” Scott said. “A lot of people deserve a lot of things, a lot of people get dealt tough hands, have rough situations, but like to see him work hard at something and go through what he went through, it was a special moment to watch as a parent.”