John Young thumbs up during race

Doing the Unthinkable: John Young’s Story

John Young caught the bug for triathlons after racing in the Witch City Triathlon in 2009. Over the past seven years, he has continued to race and has completed more than 60 races, including his third Boston Marathon just two weeks ago. He’s not chasing time; he’s not chasing fame. The runner, who stands at 4 feet 4 inches tall, is running for what he once viewed as unthinkable — the fact that he’s an athlete. In his spare time, John is a high school math teacher, swim coach, husband and father to his 13-year-old son. Read his story below and see why training isn’t just something he does to set a positive example for his young son, but instead to remind himself that anything is possible.

I was born with achondroplasia, the most common form of disproportionate short stature. In simple terms, I am a dwarf or little person (LP). In 2005, I weighed 195 pounds and was diagnosed with a severe case of sleep apnea. Once I started using a CPAP machine, I immediately lost 10 pounds and began to gain back some of my youthful energy. I returned to swimming and started to do some cycling, thereby losing more weight and becoming even more active again. After watching a video of father-son team Rick and Dick Hoyt completing an Ironman, I was motivated by their “YES YOU CAN” message and signed up to race my first triathlon in 2009… and I never stopped.

I have completed 35 triathlons, including seven half-Iron distance races, 10+ half-marathons, and seven marathons, including Boston three times and NYC twice. I laugh knowing I’m often referred to as “running guy.” More than 20 pounds later, I’m sleeping better and what’s better is I’m having so much fun.

I have not had too many muscle cramps, but prior to using #ITSTHENERVE, I used more traditional methods of water, salt and bananas to help. I first used #ITSTHENERVE when I raced the Pumpkinman Half-Ironman in September of 2015. I took one bottle prior to the swim and then another bottle while on the bike. This was the first half-Ironman race I was able to run right after getting off the bike. I don’t know if that was totally due to my own training and the fact that it was a late season race, but I had my fastest run off the bike at that race, finishing my first sub-8 half-Iron distance race in 7:58:58!

I now use #ITSTHENERVE for all my long runs (over 90 minutes) and have noticed my muscle cramps have virtually disappeared.

In this year’s Boston Marathon, I had a severe cramp in my left calf at mile 14 and walked a lot of the distance between there and the Johnny Kelly statue, where I knew the # ITSTHENERVE team were waiting. Once I took that shot and continued up the final hills to mile 20, I found I was able to run more and more! I was able to run most of the last six miles and finished in 6:19, my third fastest marathon, and fastest Boston.

I was not the first person with dwarfism to finish Boston, only because of the bombing in 2013. But I was the first to complete NYC and I was the first to do a half-Iron triathlon. I have signed up to race Ironman Maryland, which will take place on October 1st. I will be the first person with dwarfism to start an Ironman and hope to also be the first to finish one.

John is a true testament to what it means to aim high. Defying odds and breaking limitations has made him the athlete he is today. We can’t wait to continue cheering him on this year!

Photo credit: Matthew Muise


Are you a cyclist? Marty Munson, a triathlete coach and distance swimmer for the past 12 years, shares some of her go-to warmups and stretches here.

#ITSTHENERVE At Leadville: “I felt rejuvenated!”  Read Hayley Bate’s story on mountain biking, running and training without cramps.  

What kind of muscle cramps are treated with #ITSTHENERVE? Click here to find out.

6 Warm-ups and Exercises for Runners: We’ve assembled a list of six warm-ups and exercises that will help you be your best on race day.

Back to blog