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Angela Runs 4 JB

I Run 4 buddy match turns into family

It started as a runner-buddy partnership through I Run 4 and grew into family.

There was an instant connection. “We talk once a week through Facebook,” said Brooke Smith. “She’s like a part of our family.”

Angela Messer runs for JB (short for Jeremiah Blake) Smith, a boy who has mitochondrial disease.

“It’s motivating for me,” said Angela, 39, from San Diego. “I get in ruts where I don’t work out and it’s a good reminder for me to do something.”

JB, 14, from Covington, GA, is motivated to make Angela proud. “He wants to make good grades for Angela and play the guitar well for her,” said Brooke, JB’s mom. “It’s someone else for him to make proud.”

“We are a part of each other’s lives,” Angela said. “They saw me through my marriage. JB will always be a part of my life.”

When Angela and Joe got married, “we couldn’t go to the wedding but we felt like we were there,” Brooke said, noting that Angela wore a picture of JB in her wedding dress, so she had JB with her. Angela also wears JB’s photo during her races.

“It’s things like that that we have grown so close to each other,” Brooke said.


Angela was doing all-women’s boot camp training for obstacle courses when one of the girls in her class told her about I Run 4, which matches athletes with buddies with disabilities.

“I had started working out,” Angela said. “I wanted more motivation.”

And she found it in JB. “I hope I’m giving him some of my energy.”

“I Run 4 is a wonderful organization,” Brooke said. “[The buddies] can’t go run so they get hooked up with someone who can.”

Buddies can be children or adults.

On the website, www.whoirun4.com, Tim Boyle, President & Founder, and Board Member, writes: “In 2013, I gave up a two-pack-a-day smoking habit. In the month that followed, I replaced the nicotine with food and started gaining weight rapidly. So I decided to change. I took the money I would have spent on cigarettes over the course of a month and spent it on running gear. I started logging 15-20 miles a week but it didn’t take long before my motivation ran dry. I searched for motivational sayings and found one that said ‘I run because I can and when I get tired I remember those who can’t run and I run harder for them.’

“I posted this on Facebook and my friend Michael, a 52-year-old man with Down syndrome confined to a wheelchair, commented on it saying, ‘You can run for me anytime!’ With that simple comment, I Run 4 (IR4) was born!”

“It motivates runners to keep going,” Brooke said. “They are motivated because they are doing it for someone else.”

When Angela signed up in 2013, she had to wait about two months to be matched because there are so many more athletes than buddies. When Brooke signed up JB, he waited just two days to be matched.

Angela said you don’t really have to be a runner to sign up. You can walk, do classes, do mud runs, hike, etc. for your buddy, “as long as you are doing something active,” she said.

Angela had never heard of mitochondrial disease before being matched with her buddy, so JB’s mom told her about it and she did her own research. Angela researches pregnancy and autoimmune disease for University of San Diego so she understands some of JB’s condition.

Angela didn’t realize how debilitating Mito can be. JB’s health goes up and down, she said. He can play baseball, but he may also need to be in a wheelchair. Somedays he can’t walk; others he’s able to be active.

Brooke said that JB plays Miracle League Baseball for challenged kids and adults and is a member of the Emory University baseball team through Team Impact.

“I Run 4 helps motivate people and spreads awareness about diseases,” said Angela, who now posts information about Mito on her Facebook page to raise awareness.

“It’s been really fun,” Angela said. ”It’s something I didn’t expect. I get a lot more out of it than I thought I would.”


Angela has done mud runs, spartan runs, obstacle courses, half-marathons, and marathons for JB. She sends him medals and shirts from her events. She has even emailed race directors to see if she can get an extra medal for JB and they usually oblige.

Brooke sends Angela photos of JB wearing the shirts and medals.

“We have a collection of shirts he’s outgrown over the years,” Brooke said. “We’ll get him a king-size T-shirt quilt made of all the shirts from Angela.”

JB built a shelf all by himself to display the medals Angela has sent him. It’s his special place just for running medals, Brooke said. “He made it himself. It made him proud,” she said. “But it made him prouder he did it for her medals.”

When Angela sends a package to JB, Brooke won’t tell him he has something coming. “ I just let him check the mail. He knows her handwriting. He gets really excited,” she said.

The families exchange gifts for holidays and birthdays. And Angela and Brooke communicate via email and Facebook frequently.

It’s their shared wish to meet in person someday. “I want to go there and meet him,” Angela said, noting that when she travels, she will try to get to the Atlanta area. “It would be nice for him to watch me do a race.”

Brooke is a bit afraid to fly because of her immune deficiency, but she’d like her husband, Lee, JB, and herself to eventually visit the West Coast and Angela and Joe.

“It’s a relationship like no other,” Brooke said.

“I Run 4 has been a blessing for us,” Brooke said. “Tim did an excellent thing the day he said ‘I wish I had someone to run for.’”

If you would like to match your child or yourself with a running buddy, visit the website: www.whoIrun4.com.