David Jones: Crossing the finish line for good causes
Pictured: David Jones, of Orange, recently completed the Boston Marathon. But before he even went to Boston he suffered from injuries and the flu. On the day of the marathon he questioned his abilities. Around mile eight, he had his doubts whether he could continue. At mile 18 he began having leg cramps. When this picture was taken he was in pain but continued onward. The encouragement of people and children along the race and the thoughts of Indy Parkhurst and Corbin Burnett helped him to persevere and complete the 26.2 mile marathon.
For The Record
“Run the mile you are in,” not only applies to running marathons, but also to daily living. It is also the motto David Jones, of Gopher Industrial, chooses to live his life.
Jones’ recently completed the Boston Marathon April 17th with a time of 4:02:34 and an average pace of 9:15, but his journey to the marathon began as an accident.
Jones who is active in the Orange community met Cristy Burnett (Smith) at a gala she hosted to raise money for The Cure Starts Now Foundation which collects money to help children who suffer from brain cancer. Cristy and her husband, Deon, lost their first born son, Corbin to a rare form of brain cancer.
The rare form of brain cancer, diffuse pontine glioma, which is inoperable affects about 250 children per year. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for this deadly disease which is also the most resistant of all cancers to treatment. DIPG affects the pons portion of the brainstem which renders the nervous system function impossible. Symptoms include double vision, inability to close the eyelids completely, dropping one side of the face, and difficulty chewing and swallowing. Unfortunately these symptoms usually worsen rapidly because the tumor is rapidly growing.
Corbin was always a very happy little boy with a love of hunting with his father, baseball and the need for speed while riding his dirt bike. In September of 2001, Corbin was diagnosed with the inoperable tumor in his brain stem. Over the next ten and a half months, Corbin’s parents watched their smart, athletic, all-American boy succumb to an unbeatable disease which they had no control over. Corbin faced his illness and death with dignity and grace when he died in August 2002 which would have been his first day of junior high school.
Anyone would think such as rare form of cancer would not happen again in such a small community. But, it did when the cancer struck three-year- old Indy Parkhurst in February 2011. Indy’s spirit captured the hearts of many during his short life. During his illness, he fought hard, and his stubborn, carefree spirit refused to give up or give in. Throughout his treatments, Indy remained happy and active, amazing his doctors. Indy’s smiles were famous. However, he lost the battle in January 2013.
Jones was with his friend, Steve Parkhurst, Indy’s father, who was having a tough day when the pair went for a ride in 2011. But, this one was truly life changing. They were involved in a wreck which overturned the vehicle and Jones’ hand was crushed right below his wrist. There were talks of amputation and even after multiple surgeries, there were still talks of the hand not making it.
“It was pretty tough for a few years,” Jones said of the ordeal.
He didn’t lose his hand and years later the hand is usable, but has been fused together. However, considering it was nearly decapitated, he has come a long way.
During the many surgeries, Jones continued on with his life and attended a conference with the Little Cypress Mauriceville CISD School Board in 2013. The motivational guest speaker was Robyn Benincasa who was a world renowned champion adventure racer. Benincasa had gone through severe injuries and surgeries as well. Her tenacity helped her through overcoming stage four osteoarthritis and having a hip replacement. She continued to run marathons and work as a firefighter by her hard work and determination.
Jones had always participated in running and cycling and was intrigued with the speaker.
At the end of her speech, Jones got in line to meet the New York Times best-selling author to have her autograph the book. He was the last person in line and as he approached she noticed the brace on his hand. She inquired what was wrong and he told her the details. Then she asked him about his “comeback goals.” He informed her he had done some running of about five to six miles but Benincasa suggested he run a marathon.
Benincasa autographed Jones’ book but included, “see you at the finish line.” She also said she wanted him to send her a picture of him crossing the finish line of his next marathon.
Jones took on the marathon challenge and set out to make it a reality. He began by running the Gusher half-marathon in Beaumont. But, he didn’t stop there. He kept running and collecting medals and pictures of him crossing finish lines.
As his times grew shorter but he gained strength, he began the process of working up to a full marathon. But, he would need help. He found it when he trained in Virginia with a trainer from the Project Athena Foundation, Vanessa Spiller.
Finally, he was ready for the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim Trek in September 2015. The grueling marathon of the Grand Canyon travels down the south rim and across the canyon floor and then back up the north rim while wearing a back pack in the brutal heat. The heat index on that particular day was 108 degrees. He triumphantly completed the marathon and others along the way before running in the Houston Chevron Marathon in January 2016.
Jones still had his eye on the prize and was working toward the next finish line. However, qualifying for the Boston Marathon is no easy task. A runner’s age on the day of the marathon is the one that determines what age group standard the runner must meet. To enter the race, a qualifying time must have been run according to guidelines.
“They only take the best runners,” Jones said.
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon via the Houston Chevron Marathon was not an easy achievement for Jones, but his motivation was Corbin, Indy and their families. In addition to the people he met along the way. He joined forces with Ike Adams, of Beaumont, who lost a brother, Michael Adams, to cancer.
As the event moved along and times were released, Jones watched and in the end, he qualified by three seconds. But, once Jones qualified, then there was the training. Hours of running, and for something we don’t have much of in Southeast Texas, elevation.
“The Boston Marathon is one of the toughest,” Jones said.
This year, the marathon was even tougher because of other factors such as heat which at the peak of the marathon was a scorching 79 degrees. For a runner, the higher temperature can be extremely difficult.
Jones was met with unexpected challenges the closer he got to the day of the marathon. Two months leading up to the big day he was not able to train due to injuries. However, he continued to read books on running marathons in order to learn more tactics and stay motivated. Then just days before the marathon he had a stomach virus which left him weakened. He also nearly missed his flight. Determined to see the finish line he persevered to Boston.
He stood among 30,000 runners waiting and worrying, but, telling himself he was going to give it what he had.
As he began mile eight, he had doubts if he would finish as everything seemed to be working against him. He was weary and dehydrated but pushed forward.
Around mile 18 he began having leg cramps. He did not want to be a “DNF” which is what marathon runners refer to a “did not finish.” What encouraged him to finish were the crowds of people who were cheering him on to completion. But, they were yelling for him to do it for Corbin and Indy. Jones had worn a shirt which said “Running for Indy and Corbin, www.thecurestartsnow.org.
“I thought those kids went through more than this, they were fighters,” Jones said. “I drew on that strength.”
In the end, he did cross the finish line. His family was there to cheer him on along with the thousands of people at the event. In addition, wherever he went he was greeted with congratulations.
Jones headed a campaign to raise money for the foundation by placing cans at local businesses. In the end, they were able to donate more than $10,000 to the Cure Starts Now.
“Through an injury I was given a platform and a voice,” Jones said.
Jones has thought to himself many times, what if it were him who lost a child and of the struggle the family goes through.
Jones pauses while he thinks of this and tears fill his eyes. He catches his breath and continues.
While the families work to live their lives after losing a loved one to cancer, Jones says he will continue to stand in and “be the voice.”
People wanting to donate to the Cure Starts Now foundation, which is a non-profit that works to find a cure for DIPG and other cancers can go to the website at http://www.thecurestartsnow.org/