Since Jimmy Choi was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 27, running has become his medicine. At first, “I didn’t do anything about it,” he says. “I ignored my diagnosis. I started gaining weight. I let Parkinson’s progress to the point where I needed a cane.”
On a plane, a decade later, Choi picked up a Runner’s World magazine and was inspired by a story about a man with Parkinson’s who runs marathons. Choi realized that he too could run long distances and that his disease needn’t hold him back.
Choi began walking without a cane, then jogging, and eventually running. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, Choi states that the adrenaline and endorphins produced in the body while running became a good substitute for dopamine, a neurotransmitter that people with Parkinson’s lack.
Since discovering running four years ago, Choi has completed more than 70 halfmarathons and 10 full marathons, and has raised nearly $100,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
His fastest TCS New York City Marathon time was 3 hours and 56 minutes. Despite having to drag his right foot and adjust to a constantly changing gait, Choi says he is on track to finish this year in 3 hours and 20 minutes. He shares the credit for his accomplishments with his wife. “She is always there for me,” he says. “It is because of her that I am able to do the things that I do.”
Now 41, Choi marvels at the fact that a chance reading of a magazine article made such a difference in his life. “If someone can read my story and be equally inspired, that would mean a lot to me,” he says.
By Kent Hamlin
GET YOUR STORIES ON. Read more inspiring stories from runners chronicling their journeys to the TCS New York City Marathon starting line.
TUNE IN. The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be televised live on Sunday, November 6, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and for the rest of the nation on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.