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Twinsburg High Schooler youngest finisher ever in 50-mile Burning River Endurance Run

by Gina Mace | Reporter Published: August 24, 2016 12:00 AM

Twinsburg -- Dominic Gordon was about 5 years old when he participated in his first 5K, a 3.1-mile jog with his babysitter at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

On Aug. 6, Dominic, 14, of Twinsburg Township, ran 50 miles in just less than 13 hours, making him the youngest person ever to complete the Burning River 50-Mile Endurance run.

Kelly Dickerson, with Western Reserve Racing, said they have had a few 17-year-olds finish the 100-mile run, which, like the 50-miler, starts from Willoughby Hills and ends in Cuyahoga Falls.

"Dominic was the youngest person to participate in Burning River this year or any year," she said.

"I think a lot of people could do it," Dominic said. "I can do it because I turn myself off to the pain. I think of having a milkshake at the end."

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The Twinsburg High School freshman ran with his father, Andrew Gordon, no stranger to long runs himself.

The senior Gordon has completed the Burning River 100-Mile Run twice, as well as the Laurel Highlands 70-miler, to name a few. He introduced his two children to running at an early age, though his daughter decided it wasn't for her.

Dominic loved it.

"Running is kind of calming," Dominic said. "I have autism, and sometimes school bothers me. It's noisy. Running in the middle of nowhere, it's quiet. It's relaxing. Once you get to a certain point, nothing bothers you. You just stop worrying."

Before his 13th birthday, Dominic finished the Cleveland Marathon, a half marathon, and a 50K (31 miles).

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Dominic has run cross country at R.B. Chamberlin Middle School for two years, and this year joins the Twinburg High School team this year as a freshman.

When he told his dad earlier this year he wanted to run the 50-miler, Andrew initially wanted to say no.

"I was against it," Andrew said. "I thought it might be too much for him physically."

Despite his reservations, he checked with Dominic's doctor to make sure his son could handle the grueling run. When the doctor gave Dominic the green light, Andrew started him on two-month training regimen involving two- to 20-mile runs.

"We did short runs during the week and longer on weekends," Andrew said. "It's not about distance. It's about the time on your feet. He needed to get an idea of what it was like to be tired on your feet."

By the time the training was done, Andrew was on board.

"After two months I knew he was going to finish," he said.

The race started at Squires Castle in the Chagrin Reservation in Willoughby Hills at 5:30 a.m. Aug. 6 with 118 runners. It wound through Cleveland Metroparks, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Summit Metroparks, going up and down hills and over gravel trails.

"I like hilly sections and I also hate them," Dominic said. "I was cursing them."

The father and son duo occasionally had the company of other runners along the route, and the encouragement was mutual.

Dominic said he is grateful for support from his parents, family and friends, including his aunt and cousins, who drove from Massachusetts to watch the two cross the finish line.

The support came in handy when Dominic "hit a wall" at mile 45. He said he wasn't sure he would be able to finish.

The last mile or so of the race included "a giant middle finger to the runners," Dominic said, a steep climb up a set of wooden steps.

"I told him, 'you only have five miles, you can walk it, you could crawl,'" Andrew said. "I told him, 'we have to get to the aid station anyway.'"

"It's amazing to run with my dad," Dominic said. "A lot of times there are a lot of things going on. Running forces us to spend time together."

Andrew agrees.

"It's a great way for us to bond," he said. "Anything he's thinking or needs to talk about, we can talk about on the trail."

Andrew and Dominic crossed the finish line at Boston Mills Ski Resort in Peninsula, just shy of 13 hours after they started, finishing 71st and 72nd, respectively, out of the 104 runners who completed the race.

"I did it because I wanted to impress my dad," Dominic said. "I wanted to show him I could do it."

"I'm proud of him," Andrew said. "It takes a lot of dedication to decide to do it. The kid gave up a lot of Xbox time and time with friends to do it."

Email: gmace@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9424

Twitter: @twinsburgohio

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