Barberton man plans to push his disabled friend in a wheelchair for the entire Akron Marathon
AKRON - Among the 15,000 runners competing in Saturday's Akron Marathon are two rookies running the 26.2 mile distance.
Andre Travis, 32, was born with cerebral palsy. His entire life, he could only dream of running. On Saturday, he'll take part in the city's largest race with the help of his friend Zeke Petrie.
Petrie, 40, of Barberton, will push Travis in his wheelchair along the entire blue line of the course.
The two met last year when Petrie took a job transporting people with disabilities. Petrie said Travis was "geeked" about going for a run with him.
One run led to another, and in October, the tandem began training for the Akron Marathon.
"It makes him feel like he's flying. He feels free. That's liberty for someone's spirit, so I thought, 'OK, we're gonna do this,'" Petrie said.
Travis said he can hardly wait for the race to start and said his message to others is to not give up on your dreams.
"I want to be an inspiration to people. It's not about me. It's what God called me to do," Travis said.
Petrie knows the race won't be easy especially when he's faced with pushing Travis up hills, but the team feels their training has prepared them for this moment.
"The key to running is to be able to trick yourself not to mind the suffering, not to mind the pain," Petrie said.
"It's gonna be like my Super Bowl," Travis added.
Petrie knows a lot about overcoming adversity.
Last year, he made national news while spending two months in a disease-infested jail in Haiti. He was arrested during a pro-military march in Port-Au-Prince.
With that nightmare behind him, Petrie began to focus on his physical and emotional well-being and running with Travis seemed like a calling.
"Andre gave me a new perspective on life and doing this with him has changed my life for the better," he said.
Petrie said he's not sure if they'll sprint at the finish or walk to "take in the moment."
Travis already knows what he'll be thinking when it's over.
"The angels are gonna be looking down on me. They're gonna be like, 'Well done, well done," he said.