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Paramedic begins trek from Kingsport to Knoxville for 8-year-old

Matthew Lane • Updated Nov 2, 2017 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT — People run for a variety of reasons. To stay healthy. To lose weight. It could be a social activity. You may just simply enjoy it.

Though he started running a few years ago to shed some weight, James Hubbard of Scott County is not running for himself this week. He’s running for 8-year-old Lilyan.

Lilyan, who lives in Indiana with her parents, has spastic cerebral palsy. She was born weighing less than a kilogram. Her parents were told she would never be able to get out of bed, walk or talk or enjoy the everyday things most folks take for granted.

Lilyan goes through therapy every day, Hubbard said. She takes Botox injections and has undergone numerous surgeries to help her lead a better life.

“She works so hard and goes through so much. Her life is so hard compared to ours,” Hubbard said. “Instead of me being this great inspiration for her, she’s this great inspiration to me.”

Hubbard got to know Lilyan back in 2015 through the organization I Run 4 (www.whoIrun4.com), a group that matches runners with people with disabilities in order to foster relationships and raise money for non-profits.

I Run 4 has served more than 30,000 members and 11,000 matches, across all 50 states and in 28 countries.

The journey begins

“I lived most of my life pretty unhealthy,” Hubbard said. “I weighed almost 400 pounds five years ago, so I started running as a way to keep the weight off.”

Last winter, Hubbard talked to his wife about doing something big for Lilyan. He had already run a half-marathon for her (his first), but this time around he wanted to do something even grander. Since Lilyan just turned 8, Hubbard said he multiplied her age by the length of a half-marathon and came up with 104.8 miles.

Or roughly the distance from Kingsport to Knoxville.

On Wednesday, Hubbard left the Model City on the 104.8-mile run to the Marble City. Although he stuck to the Greenbelt and sidewalks through Kingsport, he plans to run along Highway 11-W to Knoxville, ending at the Sequoia Hills Greenway.

Though he admits to being a little nervous, he’s certain about his goal: to raise awareness about Lilyan and her battle with cerebral palsy.

“I think I’m ready for it. It’s a big undertaking, and there’s a lot of hills between here and there,” Hubbard said.

Prior running experience

Hubbard is 49 years old, a captain for Sullivan County EMS and has been a paramedic for 25 years. At his peak, he weighed more than 370 pounds. Since he started running, he’s dropped to about 200 pounds.

Until this summer, the farthest Hubbard ever ran was half- and full marathon distances, about five or six in total. Then he started on ultra marathons: a 50K in July and August, 72 miles in September and an 85-mile run last month in Alabama.

But unlike those runs that were straight through, the run to Knoxville will be broken up over several days. What it amounts to is Hubbard running a marathon every day for four days.

“He’s crazy but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said his wife, Ladonna. “I knew it would be a lot of work, knew it would take some training, but he started back in the summer and has done nothing but focus on training for this. He’s come a long way and I’m very proud of him.”

If you wish to make a donation for Hubbard's run visit his blog at phatboyrunning.com and look for the link about Lilyan.

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