How Far Would You Go To Keep Your Family Together?

by Merrill Moore

For many years, Marlin Keesler worked too hard and spent way too many hours away from his family. He knew deep down that his children needed more time with their Daddy. When his son Austin turned 5 years old, Marlin and his wife felt that something just wasn’t normal with his development and knew they had to do something.

Some of the problems Austin had were difficulties talking in complete sentences, problems functioning physically & socially, and frequently misbehaved. They were left perplexed about his mannerisms until 7 years later when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a severe level of Autism. This discovery happened the same year that Marlin ran in his first marathon.

Surprisingly, Marlin doesn’t enjoy running. Even he was blown away after he decided to sign up for the marathon. But, he had many reasons for his choice to do so. First off he really wanted to be able to say he finished a marathon, to become physically fit, to accomplish a life goal and to be an inspiration to his children. Marlin knows that doing uncomfortable things often brings surprising gifts along the way, and a marathon couldn’t be farther from uncomfortable!

When Marlin signed up for his first marathon 6 months before the race, he chuckled at himself for questioning the fee to become a participant. He thought that it would be much more appropriate for the runners to be paid to run 26.2 miles – that’s a long distance! Little did he know that he would eventually go on to running a marathon in each of the 50 states.

Marlin knew it would be nice to travel the country with his wife and his children as he ran in various marathons, but he had no idea just how close they would all become. Their travels created a new family bond like no other. And the treasured gifts they received as they reunited with old friends and family were priceless.

After a while, Marlin and his wife Jeanne noticed some of the same behaviors that Austin displayed in their daughter Erin. Eventually, Erin was diagnosed with Turners Syndrome, which occurs in girls born without two fully formed X chromosomes. This commonly causes short stature, underdevelopment and infertility and can be associated with an array of complications, from arthritis to kidney problems to diabetes.

The Keesler’s decided to parlay the marathon running into a learning experience for their children, as a means to supplement their education. Their goal to learn something from each state they traveled was soon transformed into an opportunity for true connection, growth and a deeper understanding of their children’s needs.

As they went to each marathon city, the Keesler’s captured their memories within a scrapbook. This collection would later turn into their published family story titled, “Our Life On The Run” by Marlin Keesler.

Today, Marlin gratefully speaks to groups with parents who have autistic children. He hopes his story can help inspire them to never give up and to realize they can make a difference in giving their kids a better life. He also intends to let others know they are not the only ones in this difficult situation.

Family takes precedence in Marlin’s life. There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do to support and love them, even if it means running across the globe.

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