Falling with Style: A Story of Overcoming Your Limits

Falling with Style

A Story of Overcoming Your Limits

Jon Maaraoui, an Ultra marathon runner, shared his moving story with us after he participated in our annual Run4Kids fundraiser in March of 2024. Run4Kids is an opportunity for Ultra marathon runners from anywhere around the world to come and participate in a range of events from a 5K, 50 miles, 100 miles or timed races such as the 12, 24, or 48 hour races. It’s open to all ages and abilities, individuals and relay teams. On Saturday of the weekend-long event, we open up the track to families to run alongside Ultra marathon runners and earn miles for their own 100 mile club goal. The Ultra runners fundraise money that is donated to our program to fund schools across the nation to participate in 100 Mile Club. Jon ran the 100 miler, and his story is why we love the power of running so much.

His journey begins in his teenage years with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. At 17, he was told he would never be able to play a sport, would need assistance with canes, and be in a chair by his twenties. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, causing the connective nerve pathways that control your body to fail. With the continued lack of use of these muscles, atrophy, or the wasting away of muscle, occurs. Jon explained how he was constantly told by those around him to not feel sorry for himself. He was left feeling pitied and helpless, only further validating that lack of willpower. 

Then there was a turning point. In his early twenties, he sat in his chair watching a blind cat catch flies in his backyard after one of his infusions. He realized that no doctor had told the cat he wouldn’t be able to fend for himself, the cat just simply survived. Without this narrative that he was told and believed himself, would he too be able to just simply survive? He never sat in that chair again.

Jon began physical therapy, something he described as intense and difficult. He was left exhausted by forcing himself to walk from the couch to the kitchen. But slowly, two canes became one, one became zero, walks became hikes, and hikes became limitless. 

A good friend of Jon’s invited him to his 24-hour Ultra marathon at Run4Kids a couple years ago. At this point, Jon had no idea what an Ultra was, but his friend knew he was an avid hiker and wanted to share the world of Ultra running with him. Jon signed up for as many volunteer shifts as he could. He figured if his friend was running for 24 hours, Jon could be awake for 24 hours. Jon was inspired. He explained how extraordinary it was to see people of all ages achieve something so remarkable. He challenged himself to wearing his 30 pound weighted vest and didn’t sit down once for the entirety of his 16 hours of volunteering. He walked laps around the course with the other runners, meeting new people and hearing their stories, leaving both motivated and excited. “I wouldn’t be here without volunteering at Run4Kids. The [Ultra] community is welcoming and so full of love…It taught me to fully accept and love myself and to push myself to new limits,” Jon shared.

Shortly thereafter, Jon signed up for a 25k trail run in Newport Beach as a friend of his was doing the 50k. He told Jon that he didn’t need to run, he just needed to get it done. Jon was hooked. After his 25k, he signed up for a 15 mile race the following weekend. Fast forward 11 months, not excluding a few DNF’s (Did Not Finish), Jon finished his first and second 50k, then his first 100 miler at Run4Kids 2024! That’s not to say it was an easy challenge. “It may have taken 35+ hours but I did it and that 100 Mile buckle was mine to take home. To infinity and beyond,” he shared.

Our 2024 Run4Kids theme was “Run Like a Kid.” Jon agreed, running like a kid represents so much more than the simple phrase. “A kid is raw in life, in acceptance, in love, in passion, and in ability,” he explained. That’s what running is to an adult: to act like a kid without a care in the world. 

To a 100 Mile Club kiddo just starting to run, Jon would share this advice: Remember to have fun! Run through the aches and pains – be greater than who you were before each run. Jon hopes to motivate anyone else who was told their limits – “You can be so much more than a simple diagnosis.” Jon shared his mantra for when things get tough: I’m not running, I’m falling with style! He explained, “That’s what I’ve always told people when they asked how I can go hiking with multiple sclerosis – They’ve seen me fall down while sitting and that’s all my answer can be, falling with style.”

It’s people like Jon Maaraoui that keep us doing what we do here at 100 Mile Club. We’re honored to share his story and hope it inspires you to go to infinity and beyond.

Thank you Jon for being a 100 Mile Club Ultra Champion!

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Emma Mackie
Emma Mackie

Emma has been running with 100 Mile Club since she was in elementary school, and joined the team in May of 2023. She works in programs and operations as well as social media.