Thank you from the bottom of my three-chambered heart

Austin is the first person with a 3-chambered heart to run the Boston Marathon.
Austin hugging his father at the finish line of the 2017 Boston Marathon. Photo credit: Joseph Kelly

When people ask me what it was like to run the Boston Marathon, I don’t just think about the race itself. I think about my entire life journey and all the people who helped get me to Boylston Street. Yes, the actual marathon day is one day in time that people can point to on a calendar, but it’s the long journey with all its ups and downs and the people you meet along the way, that makes it all worth it.

My journey has come full circle, as I went from my mom and I waiting for my dad at the finish line 19 years ago, to them waiting for me as I finished a marathon of my own.

Today, I want to say thank you to a few of the many people who made this journey possible.

To the true miracle workers who make up the medical and research staffs at Boston Children’s Hospital, including everyone from Dr. Mayer who conducted my first open-heart surgery, to Dr. Marshall who has handled my most recent tune-ups through catheterization. Without your team’s tireless efforts, my story would undoubtedly be much shorter, and would likely not have such a fantastic conclusion. With your help, a once relatively bleak outlook for me has been transformed into my greatest accomplishment. I also want to give a shout out to Dr. Beraha, my cardiologist in Rhode Island, who has been monitoring me since birth and coordinating any surgical needs with the folks in Boston. He had enough belief in my abilities and my determination to grant me clearance to chase my dream.

With an open mind and love around you, anything is possible ~ Austin Prario

My greatest thanks goes out to my family for their tremendous support. To my beautiful mother, who is always my biggest cheerleader. Thinking about her being there at the finish line 19 years ago and every step since, is one of the things that kept me going when training was at its toughest. Mom, I love you. You give me confidence every single day and show me how kind a person can be.

To my little sister Samantha, who was there to support me, running from spot to spot along the course cheering me on. To my little brother Ethan — the hero of the day — for jumping in to run the final half marathon with me. I cannot wait to be there waiting at the finish line when you crush the marathon yourself. To my Gram for being one of my biggest fans (even though she was too worried about me to attend and waited eagerly to hear my voice after I finished), and to my Uncle Steve who ran alongside my dad 19 years ago and has always been a great source of support.

Austin runs the 2017 Boston Marathon.
Photo credit: Joseph Kelly

And finally, to my favorite athlete and idol, my father. You started a journey 19 years ago when you carried me across the finish line and gave me hope to do the same. When I was younger, I would sometimes question how you pushed me to give my best and to not let my medical condition keep me from shooting for goals. This was my driving force for who I am and the ability to train as hard as I could for this endeavor. When I headed toward the finish line and saw you waiting there, 19 years of emotion came over me when I embraced you in the greatest moment of my life.

When I was younger, my mother used to have a Boston Children’s shirt that said, “A Reason to Believe.” There are so many people out there today who are clinging to the hope that their loved ones will have a happy ending like mine, and I hope that my journey can provide them some inspiration. With a great deal of help along the way, we have been able to transform a distant sense of hope for a good, healthy life into what is now an actual sense of belief, and I couldn’t be happier to be a messenger of this great story. How else could you explain the fact that someone who came in last in every race as a kid would ever be interviewed by Runner’s World for his own running accomplishments?

I may be the first patient with three chambers in his heart to run in this race, but I will not be the last. Boston Children’s is the greatest hospital in the world, and while at times things can be tough, with an open mind and love around you — anything is possible. The people who shared in this journey with me will always have a special place within my three-chambered heart.

About the blogger: Austin was treated at Boston Children’s Hospital for a congenital heart defect known as transposition of the great arteries. He ran the 2017 Boston Marathon as a member of the Boston Children’s Miles for Miracles team “in honor of all the past and current patients.”