Never mind that Andrew Peterson was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He runs a marathon faster than most people in the world. The 24-year-old Special Olympian from Indianapolis ran the 2017 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in early November in 2 hours, 57 minutes, and 33 seconds, which qualifies him for the 2019 Boston Marathon, a race Peterson has always dreamed of running.
Sure, his time is impressive, but when you consider that he turned down a non-qualifying spot for Boston from the CEO of Special Olympics Massachusetts after he ticked off a 3:05:44 finish at April’s Carmel Marathon (44 seconds shy of qualifying), instead preferring to get into the race by meeting the standard cutoff time for his age group, you can’t help but adore his drive.
Now that Peterson is in, his goal for the 2019 Boston Marathon is to run the 26.2-mile course in under 2:40, according to Runner’s World.
With a birth mother who drank while pregnant with him, nothing has been easy for Peterson, and no one would have ever guessed he’d be in the position he is today. According to the Indy Star, he was found alone in a house at three weeks old and promptly placed in foster care.
As a 5-year-old, he couldn’t run, talk or understand what was going on around him. He had an IQ of 62, and his foster family called him “The Tin Man” from “The Wizard of Oz” because he walked like a robot.
Eventually, he was adopted by Craig Peterson, a single father who adopted two other boys and a girl who were also born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and discovered that Andrew might have an aptitude for running.
“When we were at the Indianapolis Zoo, we were there on many Saturday mornings, and Andrew would be walking so fast in front of his siblings and me, I kept saying, ‘Andrew, slow down now. Come on, now,'” Craig told WBUR. “And I would turn my back and he’d be gone. So I knew that there was some energy there.”
Speech therapy improved his ability to communicate and physical therapy improved his gait, so subsequently, Andrew’s confidence grew.
“After a decade of physical therapy, I could finally move my arms and legs together in a smooth motion,” Andrew said. “I wasn’t the fastest kid on the playground, but you know what? No one could run as far as me.”
He went on to earn four varsity letters in cross country as a high school student, and many gold medals in varying distances at the Special Olympics. However, once he completed his first half marathon in 2015, he was hooked on the longer distances.
He puts in 75 miles per week and makes sure to include cross training into his regimen. When he’s not running, he can be found speaking to high school students about inclusion.
As for running, the sport has a special place in his heart.
“Running is important to me because I can succeed,” he told Runner’s World. “Although I like to have a partner, I can always run on my own – either in my neighborhood or on a nearby trail. I am able to push my body and feel good about myself.”
Here’s Andrew Peterson telling his story: