Tampa Bay man to run Gasparilla race in memory of his late wife

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As newlyweds, running was one of Ryan and Michelle de Jong’s favorite thing to do.

“We ran a lot together the first two years of our marriage,” de Jong said.

Everything changed when Michelle was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“As the disease progressed, she lost some of her abilities and when she couldn’t run anymore a local organization called Ainsley’s Angels lent us a race chair. So then I could push her, so that experience gave me the opportunity to share running with my wife — even when the disease tried to take that away from us. That was something special to us,” he said.

Michelle didn’t survive but Ryan keeps her memory alive by running races with those who can’t do it on their own.

“It’s something you enjoy, something you are good at something that is good for you, but then when you can take that and share it with somebody else. I think that’s a huge motivation,” he said.

Ryan will run the half marathon at this year’s Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic with the spirit of his wife keeping him going the extra mile.

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