It’s not uncommon to find Dylan Pierce, a pre-junior information systems major, on the 1/12 mile track inside the Daskalakis Athletic Center. But his typical workouts don’t include 314.4 laps on the three-lane suspended indoor track. Yet this past Saturday, June 2, after 20 weeks of training, Pierce ran the first-ever marathon (26.2 miles) on that very track to raise money for Autism Speaks, America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, a cause that affects his family very closely.
“Running has been a very important part of my life; it's taught me discipline and how to push myself beyond my comfort zone. I heard of people running for charity before, but I wanted to do something different. I was actually running on the track when I jokingly wondered to a friend how many laps it would take to run a marathon. I did the calculation and found out it was 314.4 laps, which is where the name of my project [314 For Autism] comes from,” says Pierce.
Grant, Pierce’s 11-year-old brother and No. 1 fan, was diagnosed with Asperger’s at a young age. Pierce said even though his family had some problems understanding the condition when Grant was younger, they were fortunate to have the diagnosis made early so that they could provide the medications and professional therapies needed.
“When I heard that 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with a form of Autism, I was amazed at the fact that insurance companies aren't required to cover treatments related to Autism in many states. I heard about stories of parents struggling to provide for their children, and it deeply touched me,” Pierce said.
Pierce researched and chose Autism Speaks to be the charity benefitting from the marathon because they “improve the lives of families” whose loved ones have autism. He hopes the marathon not only brought awareness to Autism Speaks but also more attention to community service and charity events.
“People want to support a cause, but it makes it easier when someone is participating in something,” says Pierce, who asked for donations of $3.14 or more to reach his goal of $3,140.
So far the event raised almost $2,500 and Pierce said there’s been an outpouring of support from his family and hometown in Ohio. He’s also being sponsored by Advocare, a supplement company, and Just Be Natural products.
During his 20-week training schedule for the intense 314.4 laps on the indoor track, he took long runs on the Schuylkill River trails as well as along the Wissahickon Trail. Two weeks before the race, Pierce also ran a half marathon on the track in preparation. While it’s the first time a marathon has been run on the DAC’s indoor track, it’s not Pierce’s first marathon. During his freshman year, he completed the Philadelphia marathon.
“That was crazy. The first 20 miles were incredible because I never saw so much of Philly and so many people cheering me on, but the last 6 miles were not so fun. I wasn't as disciplined with my training and it definitely cost me on race day,” says Pierce, who was joined by friends who ran alongside him during the last six miles of this marathon.
At Drexel, Pierce has completed two co-ops at the University of Pennsylvania and at the School District of Philadelphia. He hopes to start his own business post-grad in something tech related.
To donate to 314 For Autism, visit http://www.314forautism.org/.