A Boston Story: Dave Graves to Tackle the Race with Parkinsons

This story was written by Patty Swedberg, owner of Raise the Bar, a Seattle area running club. The Newton team is proud to be part of Dave’s recent success, and wishes him the best of luck this weekend. Dave, we’ll be cheering you on!


Forty-five year old Dave Graves has Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease and is headed out of town to run the Boston Marathon on April 19th.  Dave’s Parkinson’s manifests itself with conditions like constant pain, fatigue, muscle spasms, numbness and some loss of muscle control, more so on his left side than his right.  His speech is slower and quieter these days too, but if you didn’t know Dave before his diagnosis in August of 2008, you wouldn’t necessarily notice any of these conditions or guess that he’s ill. Dave would probably even hate the very reference that he’s ill.  Dave is squeezing every healthy moment and activity he can out of his busy life these days – and he’s making an impact along the way.

Thanks to Dr. Monique Giroux at Evergreen Hospital’s Parkinson’s Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, Dave’s diagnosis was made in an atypically short period of time—only one month.  An actively-competing distance runner and marathoner, he focuses his treatment around staying active and running. He began a drug regimen that relieved some of the symptoms, but the disease continued to progress making running nearly impossible.  Further consultation with Dr. Giroux led Dave to choose a more aggressive drug regimen with potentially more serious side effects.  The result has Dave running longer and more comfortably and is giving him the ability to run in Boston next weekend.

Unable to meet the qualifying time for standard entry in the race, Dave petitioned the Boston Athletic Association to allow him to compete as a “Mobility-Impaired” athlete.  In October of 2009, his wife Wendy (an Ironman and Boston qualifying marathon runner) received word from the Director that he was in.

As with most inspirational journeys, many people, circumstances, and factors that have contributed to Dave’s Boston experience.  One factor takes the form of a running shoe—Newton Shoes.  There’s something in the toe box and design of the Newton shoes that has eliminated a cramping left foot that was keeping Dave from running longer distances.  Whether or not the good folks at Newton knew they were helping a neurologically-impaired marathoner is uncertain, but Dave is grateful.  He’s also grateful to have met and networked with numerous other Parkinson’s patients like former professional cyclist, Davis Phinney.  They share the experience that hard exercise seems to slow the progression of the disease, and Dave will embrace that experience long into the future.

There will be no time goal for Dave at Boston. He’s choosing to enjoy the experience and wait to see how the day unfolds. Too many variables make Dave’s performance impossible to predict.  But rest assured Dave’s wife, nephew, friends, doctor, running team, and fellow Parkinson’s patients will all be enthusiastically cheering him on.  GO DAVE!

You can follow Dave Graves’ progress at the Boston Marathon through the athlete tracking system on www.bostonmarathon.org. His race number is 22163. Follow Wendy too!  Her number: 19139