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make 'em proud

Moments after he crossed the finish line of the Flying Pig Marathon, Max looked to the sky, covered his eyes and then looked to the ground.

On his left shoe, he saw the letters “RYW,” an acronym for Remember Your Why.

On his right shoe, the words “Make ‘em proud.” He had written those letters and words of encouragement a few weeks before he lined up at the start of his very first marathon.

The meaning behind the words reveals years of hardship.

Max was just seven years old when he was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia, a very rare form of leukemia. He spent eight weeks in the hospital and eventually had to have a bone marrow transplant. His younger sister Ellee who was just a year old at the time, was his donor, and saved his life.

“It taught me a lot about perseverance,” Max said. ”I have been through some really tough points and they've taught me how to overcome even more difficult things.”

Max started running as a way to challenge himself, as if he hadn’t faced enough challenges.

The Flying Pig Marathon was his first marathon and when he wrote those words on his shoes he did so knowing he’d need the extra boost.

RYW. Remember Your Why. Max’s “why” revolves around his friends and family - including Ellee - who stood in the rain all morning and watched as her older brother crossed the finish line. His “why” is also to prove to anyone who’s ever heard his story to know that anything is possible.

“For me that ‘why’ was everything I had faced in life,” Max said.

Make ‘em Proud. Those words brought Max to tears. He knew he made his family proud as he crossed the finish line, a feat that seemed out of reach not so long ago.

On the sides his shoes, Max wrote #relentless, a word he pulled from a book with the same title. “This is a big inspiration for me as it challenges everything you think you know about yourself. If you’re relentless you can do anything.”

And Max IS relentless. The Cincinnati native happens to be the student manager of the Xavier men’s basketball team and he plans to continue his running journey. The Flying Pig was just the start.

His next goal: to run all six major marathons around the world.

And when he needs some encouragement all he has to do is look down at his shoes, then look up and see what surrounds him: the love and support of an entire running community.


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