Barcelona 1992 Paralympic gold medalist and USABA Hall of Fame recipient Pam McGonigle is passing on her love of running to her son, JT. The two train together on a regular basis and McGonigle guided JT to a 1:51:20 finish at his first half marathon in March. Completing the half was a stretch goal JT set for himself when McGonigle set a stretch goal of running a 50-mile trail run on Mother’s Day.
It all started when McGoingle and another parent started a cross country team at the school JT was attending.
“Someone from the school knew my running history and asked if I would coach a team. I thought it was a great idea.”
McGonigle agreed to coach the team but didn’t pressure her son to join. Though the two had followed USABA Nationals, Olympics and Paralympics since JT was old enough to understand his mother’s passion for the sport, she wanted him to make the decision to start running.
“JT just sort of jumped on board and followed the sport with me. [When he joined the cross-country team], I taught him how to mesh in the middle of the pack and let others guide him.”
Their bond is strengthened not only by their love for running but by the fact that McGonigle and her son were both born with albinism.
“When he started running on the cross-country team, he wasn’t real serious about it but has become more serious about it now. He was captain of the team last year and again this year. Last summer, he wanted to start running more to train for races.”
Training for races has given the duo more time together and strengthened their relationship.
“It’s a good time for us to grow. We’re both very comfortable to talk about pretty much anything and everything. We both find peace while running. It’s a time we don’t feel pressure.”
And speaking of pressure, the four-time Paralympian is enjoying her son’s new found love for racing but not setting any expectations.
“I don’t compare him to me. There’s no pressure to compete at the Paralympic level. We just enjoy the time we run with each other. I’m big on not driving his running despite my background.”
“He obviously knows my history and the things I’ve accomplished. But I don’t put any such expectations on him. If anything, I overcompensate by being very laid back. He’ll have a great fitness base if he decides to go the Paralympic path. If he does, my husband and I will be by his side the whole way. That’s something he can decide later though. We’re not putting any pressure on him or setting any expectations.”
JT is enjoying some downtime after completing his first half marathon but is helping his mother train for the Northface Endurance Run at Bear Mountain. JT will be at the finish line and a couple of the check-points to support his mom as she runs the 50-mile course.
McGoingle encourages other parents to train with their children to enhance their relationship and set their children up for success with a healthy appreciation for fitness and sports.
“It’s especially beneficial for a child with vision loss to develop strength and perseverance through sports. These attributes directly transfer to one’s ability to navigate the world without typical vision.”
“Working out with your child is an awesome opportunity to spend time together, share goals, and experiences both as a team and as individuals. It’s something you can do for a lifetime. it’s something both you and your child will hold near and dear to your heart forever.”