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At the TCS New York City Marathon, some runners keep their eyes on the prize with the help of signs held by friends and family along the 26.2-mile route through all five boroughs: “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon!” “Be the runner your dog thinks you are.” “Run like your iPhone is at 1 percent!” And, of course, the classic, “Run, Forrest, run!”
For Santino Montalbano, however, inspiration comes from another source. “I am running the Marathon to show my daughter that, with hard work and determination, you can achieve your goals.”
Montalbano is a member of HeartShare’s four-person Marathon team and he’s raising money to support programs that assist people with developmental disabilities. His daughter, Julia, who will be 16 next month, has attended The HeartShare School for eight years.
“Before she enrolled in The HeartShare School, Julia was nonverbal, unable to attend to a task and not structured,” says Montalbano. “Now, she speaks, expresses herself, reads and writes. I never thought she’d ever read.”
These days Julia is a typical teen. She loves technology, loves to travel, loves her sisters and cousins and especially loves crafts.
“She watches a lot of videos on Youtube,” says Montalbano. “She loves to design. If you put her in a room with some wood and some nails, she’ll build you a house.”
Julia’s transformation is the reason Montalbano chose to run for HeartShare.
“I wanted to run and support an organization I believe in,” he says. “HeartShare has a genuine compassion for the autism community. We explored other schools but they were all business, more like institutions. They were missing the compassion part.”
To prepare for the Marathon, Montalbano has been training hard, even though he’s been a runner for many years, with several half-marathons and numerous 10Ks under his belt.
“The full marathon has always been a bucket list item for me. I will not do this again, because the training is killing me. The amount of hours I’m putting into this is insane.”
What keeps him motivated while he’s running?
“I rarely listen to music, but if I do, I listen to the entire ‘Rocky’ movie soundtrack at the beginning of a run and again at the end.”
Mostly, though, he uses his time in the zone to reflect.
“I think about everything… life, family, what I can do to make things better for my family. I focus on how to enjoy life because life is too short.”
Click HERE to help Santino make a difference by contributing to his fundraising effort.