Rochester man to run 144 miles in 44 hours for autism awareness

Man running 144 miles in 44 hours for autism awareness

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MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — It’s no secret that a marathon is a lot of running. But what if you were completing five marathons, back to back to back?

That’s what Clement Chung will be doing the weekend of Nov. 17 when he plans to run 144 miles around Monroe County. Chung plans to complete this in just 44 hours, to raise money for autism awareness.

In 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that one in 44 kids are diagnosed with autism. This year, that number’s jumped to 1 in 36.

Ten years ago, Chung’s son Jonathan was that one in 36. While Jonathan didn’t want to be a part of this story, it’s because of him, and what the local nonprofit AutismUp did for his whole family, that Chung has taken on this 1:44 challenge.

“I’ve been a runner for about seven years now. And I started just as a hobby, 5ks and that kind of thing,” Chung said. “And every time I got a little bit further, I wanted to see how much more I could go.”

His 144 miles starting on Nov. 17 will be his biggest run yet. Chung will start at the entrance to Ontario Beach Park, tracing an outline around Monroe County as he passes through several checkpoints. And if it goes according to plan, 44 hours later he’ll be finishing right back where he started.

The race isn’t just for fun. When Chung and his wife Kate Antoniades noticed their son seemed to be different than other kids, he was three.

“I remember we went to the clinic to have him diagnosed and coming out of there feeling lost, not knowing where to go what to do now that we had this information,” Chung said. “So I remember seeing that AutismUp had a booth there that had someone there who could help direct us to like what the next steps would be and what help was available, and honestly, that’s the most helpful thing they’ve done for us.”

Ever since then, Chung, Antoniades and Jonathan have been a part of the nonprofit’s vibrant community. Inside their office at 50 Science Parkway, autistic folks of all ages have the chance to learn, play, and connect with each other.

“I have a lot of friends of people with autism, ’cause they’re just like me,” Em Christie said.

Christie is 21 years old, and enrolled in the Full Life Academy at AutismUp. Christie takes classes on music, cooking, movement, and more with other young adults.

While classes like these cost money, AutismUp also offers several free seminars, mostly for parents. They also facilitate the chance to connect with other families, something Antoniades and Chung said is invaluable.

“It’s always good and kind of affirming to hear about people in the same situation as you and having the same challenges, you know, what have they done, and how that advice could help you,” Antoniades said. “Especially as parents of a child that is newly diagnosed, but as the child gets older and life goes on for everyone the parent education is valuable too.”

Chung’s run is also a fundraiser: He’s hoping to raise $14,400 for AutismUp, to help give back to an organization that’s helped him, Jonathan, and Antoniades so much.

“We’ve benefitted so much from the community,” he said. “So it’s not just about the services, about the classes, its about building the connections with other people so that you can share those experiences.”

To follow along with Chung’s journey, or join him for a portion of the race, see where he’s running here. You can donate to AutismUp here.