The team of Jesse Watson and Dean Irvine competing in the Seattle Marathon.
Photo courtesy of the Watson family.
by Deborah Stone
"If you really want to do something, you can," says Jesse Watson of Woodinville. Watson, a 21-year-old U.W. student with muscular dystrophy, used these words as motivation to compete in the Seattle Marathon Nov. 30. Teaming up with family friend Dean Irvine, Watson completed the race while being pushed in his wheelchair by Irvine for the 26.2-mile marathon from Marymoor Park to Husky Stadium.
Watson remembered the joy he felt as a child when his father, Steve Watson, pushed him along in his wheelchair while jogging. When Irvine, a special education teacher, mentioned doing the marathon with Jesse about a month before the race, Jesse was enthusiastic.
"Jesse has inspired and motivated me to do many things, including completing the Eco-Challenge (an eight-day adventure race) last summer. I wanted to pay him back for what he's given me," Irvine said.
The two not only competed, but finished the race with a time of four hours and 12 seconds, coming in 1,200th in a field of 2,500 racers.
"We started dead last in the second wave of runners and took it easy for the first six miles or so. After that, we began passing people and kept up an even and quick pace," Irvine said.
Along the way, they gave as well as received encouragement and inspiration. Family, friends, and students and teachers from Wilder Elementary School, where both Irvine and Steve Watson are teachers, provided support at various points along the course.
Jesse wanted to use the race as a fundraiser for the Make A Wish Foundation, so he asked people he knew to sponsor him on a per-mile basis. He raised $700, and the foundation was presented with the gift.
"Not many people who have a wish granted can give back something," said Watson, a previous beneficiary of the Foundation. "I wanted to show them how much it meant to me to have had my wish granted."
Jesse's wish came true three years ago when Fender Guitar Company designed a special guitar for him.
To train for the race, the duo did parts of the course to become familiar with the terrain and provide Irvine the chance to get accustomed to pushing Watson in a wheelchair while running. They also had to adjust the wheelchair, a manual one, to suit the situation.
Irvine, 28, does not run marathons as a rule, but he is a fierce competitor in such outdoor sports as skiing, rafting, kayaking, and mountaineering, and keeps himself in top physical shape.
"In doing the marathon with Jesse, I wanted others to realize that there are so many people who can say 'no' in their lives. For Jesse, 'no' is not an option. He can't say, 'No, I don't feel like having muscular dystrophy.' It puts thing in perspective for all of us," Irvine said.
Although the weather was cool with periods of heavy rain the day of the marathon, Watson's and Irvine's spirits never sagged. They kept each other going.
"Everything we did, we did together," said Irvine. The highlight of the race was the finish line with the cheering and excitement. They both felt a sense of pride and satisfaction in their accomplishment and their contribution to the community.
Would they do another one?
"It was fun, and I now have a lot of respect for people who do marathons," Watson said. "I would consider another one, or maybe a 12K race."
Irvine said that he won't rule out that possibility either.