DULUTH — Track and field wasn’t an option for Aidan Gravelle until he got a racing wheelchair.
Thanks to the adapted equipment, the Lake Crystal sophomore fell in love with the sport.
“Ever since that point I’ve become a lot more active and healthy,” he said. “My confidence has been really boosted since then.”
The teen wheeled his first marathon Saturday in Duluth, raising money for the same medical fund which helped cover costs for his chair in the process.
He was part of the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation team at Grandma’s Marathon. The foundation awards medical grants to families whose health insurance plans don’t cover certain services.
Each team member pledged to raise at least $500 for the cause. Gravelle’s fundraising efforts reeled in more than $1,800.
“It feels great knowing it’s going to go toward someone who needs adaptive equipment,” he said.
Gravelle received his first racing chair about two years ago. His mother, Tina, said the fund made a huge difference.
“It helped tremendously,” she said. “Adapted sports equipment is so expensive. His first chair was over $2,000 from his first grant.”
Additional funding covered lighter-weight carbon fiber wheels, running $2,500. A throwing chair, allowing Gravelle to compete in field events, would’ve been more than $1,000.
The equipment enables Gravelle to compete in the 100m, 200m, 1600m and discus. Grandma’s Marathon was his longest race yet, but the 15-year-old was confident leading up to it. He previously completed two half-marathons at the Mankato Marathon.
“I’m just looking to finish,” he said. “I’m just going to stay around the two-hour mark.”
He ended up surpassing expectations, finishing in 1:50:09. Making the weekend even more of a success, he got to meet elite wheelchair athletes in the days leading up to the race.
Gravelle said seeing what those athletes are capable of is inspiring. He hopes to one day compete against them.
“That’s definitely my dream,” he said of someday racing professionally. “They’ve been a huge inspiration for me.”