Two marathons divided by six days over two coasts add up to Jennifer Tullio’s most rigorous physical challenge yet. But she’s running for a reason.
EAST COUNTY — At 4 a.m., Jennifer Tullio’s bedroom is still dark. She’s tired, but the promise of fresh air and adrenaline pulls her out of bed hours before most alarm clocks ring four days a week.
The mother of two knows she only has a few hours until her children need to be up and ready for school.
She quickly gets dressed and grabs her headphones before jogging out the front door.
Tullio is training to run two marathons this month, but she won’t reach the finish line until there’s a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the disease that impacts her 11-year-old son, Grayson.
The marathons are part of the B2B Challenge — Boston to Big Sur — that raises money for the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy organization. On April 20, she will run 26.2 miles at the Boston Marathon, and then, she’ll fly five hours to Monterey, Calif., where she’ll run the same distance April 26, at the Big Sur International Marathon.
So far, Tullio has raised $4,520 — just $380 shy of her $5,000 goal.
But she isn’t satisfied because she knows what’s at stake without advances in treatment.
“Grayson is moving toward needing a wheelchair, and things are becoming harder for him, things that, when he was 4 years old, were a piece of cake,” Tullio said.
Tullio started running marathons for Grayson and Duchenne muscular dystrophy research six years ago. She has raced in 10 marathons for her son since then and aims to complete one marathon a year.
The marathons make her feel as though she’s doing her part.
“Grayson can’t run, so I run for him,” Tullio said. “Marathons are my way of sharing my story and stepping up and doing something.”
To train for two marathons on two coasts in six days, Tullio has made 4 a.m. runs a must, along with swimming and CrossFit training a few times a week.
Each week, she increases the intensity of her workouts by upping the number of miles she runs. She runs 50 miles a week and has run up to 23 miles at once to prepare for the marathons.
The races on the West and East coasts lead runners on winding roads and hills — a terrain much different than Tullio’s neighborhood in East County, so she runs over bridges, including the John Ringling Bridge, weekly to compensate for the area’s flat surfaces.
She exercises six days a week, sometimes twice a day. But she takes Sundays off to spend time with her family.
“I make exercise part of my schedule, but it’s not going to interfere with my home life,” Tullio says.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].