All running stories have a beginning; a moment when the hero makes the bold decision to start running and stick with it. But inspirational stories come in many forms and we find running heroes whose journeys are interrupted, detoured, or stopped. Through these, we learn that sometimes the greatest courage is needed to begin again.
If you live in the greater Boston area, you may have passed Pon Donesasorith on one of your runs or seen him compete (or even win) a local race. He can frequently be found running Boston’s quintessential Esplanade, blending into the hundreds of other runners on their lunchtime runs. You may pass by, see his determined pace or catch one of his friendly smiles, but you may never know the setbacks that he faced, the passion within, and the running story that he continues to write to this day.
Pon knows better than anyone that in an instant plans and dreams can end. Or begin. For Pon, one beginning was at Boston Medical Center, in what could have been an end. “It’s where my running journey and my life started,” he recounts.
In 2009, Pon was in his early 20s and attempting to get back into running. He run track in high school but had never made it a lasting habit. He was struggling to figure out his career path and his identity. Suddenly he was in a severe car accident. Immediately airlifted to Boston Medical Center, he was in critical condition, and his future unknown. “It was wait and see”, he says reflecting on the days when he didn’t know if he would live.
He stayed in the hospital for six long months. “The healing process was physical and mental. I had brain swelling, a broken ribcage, I had lost my memory…everything. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t remember anything.”
“It was a life-turning event. Very painful. Very emotional. It took me almost a year to recover physically and mentally.”
After several ends in his story, it was time for a beginning. Pon felt his mind and body were finally ready to begin running. “When I was finally better, I started running. I started with 5Ks and then everything else followed.”
Before long, he began signing up for local races that his employer-sponsored. ”I started running from there, picking myself up. I started expanding and running all around New England.” 10ks, half marathons, and then full marathons, something his former self would have never considered completing.
“Before the accident, I just ran casually. I had run track when I was younger. I wasn’t really into running and not thinking about running marathons. A marathon is the best racing experience. Enjoy the scenery, and interact with the thousands of people running. It’s challenging.”
To Pon, the ASICS motto of “Sound Mind, Sound Body” means understanding yourself and your mind, being one with yourself. “When I feel the mental struggles coming through, that’s when I know I need to take it slowly. My mental healing is related to my physical health. The mental journey is to keep on going.”
He first downloaded the ASICS Runkeeper app simply as a way to track his runs but found it was a great platform to connect with other runners and receive running tips and coaching. ”When I was a novice runner, I didn’t know about [running] statistics. That was the first thing I saw in Runkeeper; it recorded my distance, pace, and calories. Everything.
“Now I use [the Runkeeper app] on my daily runs to see how I’m progressing and what needs to be done. Doing Runkeeper Challenges keep me motivated and are a good reminder to keep going. It’s a good running tool for me.”
Pon continues to stay challenged and consistent. He tries to get in 4 to 5 runs a week of at least 7 miles. Between runs, he does strength training to keep his legs strong. Running hasn’t just changed him physically but changed his perspective of himself. “Running fills me up; physically and with confidence. Running is a voice to other people.” He speaks of running as a universal language.
For him, one of the best parts of running is the opportunities he has to inspire other runners with his story, especially speaking the language of running to Laotian runners.
As a Laotian himself, he wants others from the small Southeast Asia country of Laos to feel connected to the world community of running. “Laos is a part of the running community too. I’m trying to reach out to them and say ‘We’re all together here’. I’ve been getting social media messages from new runners and followers in Laos. It’s something cool to see there. [Running] is starting to grow slowly.”
Though his family is from Laos and he speaks the Lao language fluently, Pon has never been able to visit the country, although he dreams of running there. “Laos has one of the most beautiful untouched natures. The landscapes consist of mountains, waterfalls, and rivers. Laos is becoming one of the go-to countries for tourists who are interested in natural beauty and nature escapes. There’s a huge race in Laos every year (the marathon in Vientiane). It’s a race I’d like to do in the future…and inspire more runners.”
Also at the top of his wishlist is running Chicago and the L.A. Marathon.
Starting your running journey or sticking to a routine can be challenging. The advice from someone who literally had to learn to walk again: “One step at a time, take it slowly, keep going. I still do this when I’m running. I say ‘one [step] at a time’.”
Now, after everything he has endured and achieved, he has a chance to give back to those who were at the beginning of his journey. Pon has his sights set on the marathon in Boston. Even if he does qualify, he wants to fundraise for Boston Medical Center.
“I am very grateful to Boston Medical Center for helping me be where I am now. That I can continue my running journey and continue to be myself. They have a big place in my heart. I wouldn’t be here without the staff, my friends, and my family too.”
For Pon, as an ambassador to multiple races and reputable running brands, and more marathons on the horizon, his running story may only be getting started.
“I hope I can keep on running and keep on inspiring.”
We hope you’ll be inspired too and begin writing your running story today.