As has been Alex's experience, "The running community wholeheartedly accepted Asia". She trains with the Running Fit 501 marathon and half marathon training team. Although she usually runs alone, when she ran her first full marathon, her two pacers and friends, Aaron Pratt and Katie Sytniak, ran with her to keep her from going out too fast.
Aaron & Katie are running Boston tomorrow. We'll be watching them along with the Island runners and Andy Bryant. Katie's bib number is 16257 and Aaron's is 9854.
The Milan News-Leader
A Heritage Newspaper
PUBLISHED: April 9, 2009
An adopted Korean orphan to Adair and Jerry Renning, Asia began life with several disabilities and challenges. She was born with a bowel problem that required a colostomy at 13 days old, and spent the majority of her first two years traveling from hospitals to orphanages.
"At 2 years old, she couldn't roll from front to back, sit unsupported, crawl, stand or walk," Adair said.
When she did learn to walk and run, at roughly 28 months old, her troubles continued and a number of disabilities were misdiagnosed, along with surgeries and failed treatments.
"She used only a few single words, which were hard to understand. She dug holes in her fingers and clawed at her arms when (she was) upset," Adair said. "When she was 10, she was diagnosed as having pervasive developmental disorder and Ritalin was prescribed, but it nearly destroyed her."
That year, the Renning family began researching on its own and discovered food allergies may be a culprit in Asia's condition. After months of observation and testing, the family learned she was allergic to 19 different foods.
"We removed the foods she was allergic to and added supplements she was deficient in. We've been able to control the dietary issues," Adair said. "It brought about amazing changes in Asia."
Following the dietary changes, Asia's diagnoses were changed to autism and hearing issues. She worked with an auditory integration therapist on her hearing after the family learned she hears some frequencies too well, some barely at all, and experiences a five-second delay between her left and right ear.
"It's something she's learned to deal with," Adair said. "She has a really great way of phonetically sounding out words when she's reading and has quite clear speech now."
With many of her disabilities and challenges under control, Asia's passion for running became more and more prominent, which led to her participation on the Milan school cross country team.
"She always liked to run when she was young, and when she entered middle school, we really wanted her to be a part of a team," Adair said. "And running is great because it has that, but it's more competing against yourself.
"We spoke to the cross country coach, Steve Porter, who was more than willing to take on the challenge of an autistic athlete. I can't say enough good things about him and his program. They were instrumental for Asia in personal growth, friendships, and learning to be around and communicate with other people."
Throughout high school, Asia improved to join the "A" running squad, earning points for a team that won the regional championship her junior year and placed 12th at the state meet. She also carried the Olympic torch in 1996 as it passed through Detroit.
But what really led to Asia's current accomplishment began in 1998, after her coach encouraged runners to stay active during the summer off season. Asia's answer was to run every day. With the exception of one break because of an injury in 2003, Asia has continued that tradition, and for almost 11 years has run every single day.
After high school, she averaged five miles each day and competed in local 5- and 10-K races.
In 2006, running became a team sport again when she met Kathleen Gina after an Ann Arbor race. Gina is head coach of the Running Fit 501 marathon and half marathon training team. She invited Asia to the next practice.
The running community wholeheartedly accepted Asia, who was welcomed to the team. As a result, the team helped Asia to reach many more milestones, including her first half marathon.
This year marks Asia's seventh season training with the Running Fit team, and she has now completed seven half marathons and 14 other races last year alone.
Asia turned 28 April 4 and has come an incredibly long way. A day after her birthday, she competed in the Martian Marathon in Dearborn, her first full marathon.
Asia finished with a solid time of 3:57.09. Although she typically runs alone, her two pacers and friends, Aaron Pratt and Katie Sytniak, ran with her to keep her from going out too fast. She finished in 10th in her age group to a very proud and joyful family.
"This marathon is particularly exciting because she never wanted to run a marathon," Adair said. "Someone told her early on in her running career that a marathon was a terrible, painful run and it scared her. She's come a long way."
Since finishing a marathon is an accomplishment for a person under average circumstances, Asia's feat is particularly special considering there are only a handful of autistic marathon runners in the country.
"It's excited to think that she's doing something that such a small number of the normal population does. The fact that she's running the marathon, with the challenges she faces, to me is just phenomenal. My husband and I are both so proud of her."
Asia's only goals for the future are to continue to run and hopefully set a new personal record each time she goes out, and continue working with her team.
"Being a part of the Running Fit training team has been such an amazing experience for her," her mother said. "It brought people into her life that don't see her as a person with autism, but see her as a dedicated runner, and that's what matters to her."
Staff Writer Jana Miller can be reached at 429-7380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.