This past fall, 18-year-old Howard County resident Logan Thomas started to slow down during the last few miles of the Richmond Marathon. He was trying to come in under three hours for the first time to qualify for the 2021 Boston Marathon — a goal he and his father had set.

Logan’s autism made it difficult for him to communicate, and he didn’t understand the idea of pacing. His pacer for the race, Chris Hauger of Baltimore-based running club Faster Bastards, kept him focused.

“I kept thinking, we’re going to qualify for Boston,” Hauger said. “I wanted to keep him happy and smiling. He’d been ‘woo-wooing’ and waving at the crowd and was very excited. But you hit a wall.”

Hauger had shielded Logan from the wind and devised a way to get him water so Logan wouldn’t interfere with other runners. He kept him running in the middle of the street. They started fast and could afford to take a break and still stay on pace for a sub-three-hour marathon. He asked Logan if he wanted to walk for a stretch.

“I’m not sure he realized how well he was doing,” Hauger said. “He didn’t want to stop. He kept running. Toward the end he reached for my hand. I didn’t want to let him down. He is an amazing runner.”

Logan finished the Richmond Marathon in 2:55:27 and qualified for Boston. Logan didn’t do any long runs in preparation for Richmond, averaging about 15 to 25 miles a week. Hauger remembered Logan showing up to the race without any running gear or snacks.

“He just had on shorts and a T-shirt and a pair of cross-trainers,” Hauger said. “He didn’t have any energy snacks. The race was emotionally exhausting. He crossed the finish line smiling and happy — and that was special.”

Hauger met Logan through Erin Robinson of St. Elizabeth School, a special education school in Baltimore. Logan first started running there at the age of 13. Chip Riegel Morgan and Scott Tomlin, teachers at St. Elizabeth, were Logan’s coaches with the school’s running club and encouraged him. At 16, Logan participated in the 2017 Baltimore Running Festival. He placed first in his age group for the half-marathon.

Darek Thomas, Logan’s father and a marathoner himself, ran with his son on weekends and discovered he had ability.

“He zoomed past me,” Darek said. “I noticed he was a whole lot faster than me and had a gift. I pushed him to run marathons. He tried a half and did well. Then he ran in two marathons, finishing in 3:17:00 for the first one in Baltimore and 3:14:00 in the second one. I knew he had a shot at Boston. I just couldn’t do it with him. I could get him halfway there, but not the whole way. If he [didn’t] make the time, that was fine, too.”

Darek said Logan is very athletic and competes in the Special Olympics. Logan skis regularly (Whitetail, Roundtop and Liberty), bowls every Sunday and does CrossFit. He works out every day in a tight-knit community where everyone knows him.

“He sets his alarm, runs on the treadmill, swims laps, walks back home and gets on the bus,” Darek said. “He has to be on the go all the time.”

Darek and his wife, Elaine, are grateful for Logan’s coaches and Hauger.

“With his disability, we could tell running was good for him,” Darek said. “It had a calming effect on him. It regulates him in a sense. He’s going to run in Boston. Not many people are able to do that. Labels are put on kids. Disability holds them back. It’s just a label and it doesn’t mean anything.”

Darek envisions Logan finishing his high school diploma and going to a small college to run.

The Faster Bastards have sent Logan a new pair of running shoes and have invited him to run with them in the spring.

Now, Darek needs to qualify for Boston and join his son. He’s registered for the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati May 3.

“Logan can pace me during the training,” Darek said.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Darek Thomas

Issue 261: February/March 2020