Steve Anastasio is the first to admit he's got an uphill battle — in more ways than one.
The wheelchair bound Anastasio is preparing to race in his first ever half-marathon at this weekend's ING Hartford Marathon, a 13.1 mile race that is more than double his previous long distance.
"I've been training my butt off, constantly. I've been training for the past three months, 3-4 times per week. I'm definitely getting ready for it," says Anastasio, who now splits his training at places like Haddam Meadows or Old Saybrook.
Anastasio, who was born with spina bifida, has set a personal goal to finish the race in under 2-hours 45-minutes and will be guided by his dad who has been along his son's side for the dozen-and-a-half or so races he's competed in since taking up the sport a few years ago.
"This is nothing for him. My dad is doing a 50K trail run the following week," Anastasio says.
A familiar face at high school sporting events in Durham, Anastasio was selected by marathon organizers as one of eight competitors to be invited to the event as a member of the marathon's Elite Inspiration Team.
"They inspire people. They're not the fastest people out there but they have very inspiring stories," says Beth Shluger, Executive Director of the Hartford Marathon Foundation.
Shluger says the group will be treated as V.I.P. guests of the race, which includes accomodations, special recognition and apparrel.
"We have eight foot posters that have been made of the team throughout downtown Hartford so that people can read their stories and get to know them," she says.
Over the summer, two former Coginchaug student-athletes, Lauren Esposito and Audrey Biesak, nominated Anastasio for the honor. Their letter to the race's Elite Inspiration Team committee can be found below.
As grueling as the race is likely to be, Anastasio isn't taking it too serious.
"I've never done this distance so I'm going to my personal best," he says with a laugh.
Steve Anastasio is the definition of a role model for a countless number of people. He serves as a source of hope and inspiration for the female athletes and parents at Coginchaug Regional High School in Durham, CT. Every soccer game, every basketball game, every softball game; Steve Anastasio has been there. He is what it means to be a “number one fan.” Since this is coming from two female athletes recently graduated from Coginchaug, we can describe to you the tremendous amount of support Steve offers us. Not only is he an avid Lady Blue Devils enthusiast, but our friend has endured the hardship of being confined to a wheelchair his entire life. When we encounter people who have had a tragedy like this in their lives, we expect them to be somewhat dejected or low, but this is not the case with Steve. He has fearlessly participated in several road races around Connecticut. After investing in an expensive racing wheelchair, he even worked with a trainer to increase his endurance and arm strength. He has won first place numerous times, and it is all because of the positive energy he brings to the table. This is the same positive energy that we feed off of when we see him at every game. Win or lose, having a post-game conversation with Steve Anastasio brings nothing but a smile to our faces. To say the least, Steve is a huge part of our community. He shares a spot in the hearts of us players, coaches, parents, students, and many more. Not only does he participate in races, but he also maintains his own job. He even writes articles for our local “Patch” online newspaper about our teams. If anything after meeting somebody like Steve, we learned that the little things in life that upset us are most times frivolous. This man has overcome more than most of us can imagine, and he always has that smile on his face. It truly makes him our hero. It meant the world to us when he came to every game, but there’s more to it. Along with being a hero, he is an idol. We can only hope to be able to look at life with the same perspective as Steve Anastasio.