James Anderson Ready for Monday’s Marathon Ride

April 12, 2024

Monday is the day that James Anderson of Bedford and his family and friends have been anticipating for years. 

Anderson, 32, lives with a disease called NARS1, a genetic mutation resulting in cognitive, physical, and neurological impacts. But they won’t stop him from traversing the 26.2-mile route of the Boston Marathon as a passenger in a custom-designed wheeled chair pushed by his cousin Liam Cronin.

“We are beyond excited,” said his sister Lauren Anderson on Wednesday.

Sports play a huge part in James’s life. He competed in the Special Olympics until severe neuropathy made walking impossible. For years he has watched varsity basketball in the high school gym, cheering for both teams.

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Liam Cronin, James Anderson, Jackie Roth, and Derek DeAntonis. (Jackie is also running Boston, but for Best Buddies. She is Derek’s wife.)

His mother Nancy Anderson, a retired Davis School teaching assistant, described James’s discovery into the marathon universe. Several years ago, an unknown benefactor asked the family if James could accompany him seated in a Hoyt Chair, named for Dick Hoyt and his son Rick. Dick Hoyt pushed his son using the adaptive wheeled chair in more than 1,000 distance races.

James loved the experience so much that his parents individually trained and participated with him in a couple of area marathons. Then Liam got involved and teamed with James for marathons in Nashville and Hingham.

On Dec. 8, the BAA notified the Andersons that they had won a slot in the duo division. The duo secured eligibility for a slot in the marathon by meeting a time requirement of under six hours in an earlier race.

Lauren Anderson outlined the itinerary for Monday morning. Boarding the special bus for para-athlete duo teams begins at 5 a.m. “It should be a very cool experience for James and Liam to meet other runners and hear their stories,” she said.

After the bus arrives in Hopkinton, the two will make their way to a designated area for the teams. Their bib number is D-17, Lauren said, so there must be at least 17 pairs. The start time is 9:30 a.m., after the wheelchairs depart. 

Updated racing chair with new James Gang logo on wheels – Keep a lookout! Courtesy photo

“We told people they will be passed by elite men and elite women, so then they can look for the blue chair with the James Gang wheels,” she said. 

During the Marathon, “The Anderson family is trying to make it to three spots: Ashland, Wellesley, and the finish line. And we have crowds cheering in Natick and also Heartbreak Hill,” Lauren reported. 

“We’re very excited to connect with the community and cannot wait to be cheering him on,” she said, noting that her brother “is going to be quite excited to hear the crowd” and will acknowledge the cheers.

Cronin has been training on his own, Lauren explained, as one byproduct of her brother’s illness is severe neuropathy in his arms and legs, precluding safe exposure to cold.  “Liam has done the Newton hills – he knows what they feel like,” she noted. “That’s probably going to be the hardest part.” 

The family has established a certified non-profit organization, The James Gang, “dedicated to pursuing opportunities for inclusion for people living with intellectual disabilities.”

“Jay and Liam have raised $27,502,” Lauren Anderson said Wednesday, and volunteer Derek DeAntonis raised another $9,475. The website is www.teamjamesgang.com, and it includes not only a donation link, but information on applying for grants.

In January, the James Gang raised about $20,000 through a fundraising event in Burlington, then partnered with the Recreation Department there to sponsor I Can Swim, a week-long water-safety skills camp for up to 30 people with disabilities. Another recipient was the Rory Belle Foundation, memorializing a young victim of NARS1.

“We really hope to get this grant program going and impact as many people as we can,” Lauren said.

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Ron Richter
April 13, 2024 7:36 am

Thanks for the nice article Mike. James and all of the Anderson‘s continue to amaze, we will be there cheering him on.

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