Runner escapes childhood challenges to put himself on pace for success

Former foster kid with FASD finds respite in running


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This time it was someone else asking the questions.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/05/2017 (2029 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This time it was someone else asking the questions.

My boyhood pal Gary Watkins and I had just finished playing the old boyhood baseball game of 500-and-up at the cricket pitch in Assiniboine Park on Sunday when we chanced to meet a young man, who judging by what he was wearing, had been running in the annual Winnipeg Police half-marathon.

So the ever-curious Gary wondered aloud what his best full marathon time has been.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jonas Eastcott, part-time dishwasher, full-time marathon runner and motivational speaker says he runs to deal with anxiety and depression.

“I’ve run a 2:54,” said Jonas Eastcott.

That’s how it started.

Jonas went on to tell us that Adidas sponsors him, which is how he came to be a pace runner at the half-marathon; holding a stick with a sign that told the others he was striding at a rate that would take him to the finish line in one hour and 30 minutes.

“I run 100 miles a week,” he said, as Gary kept asking questions, “and eat 5,000 calories a day.”

But then there was the rest of the story about the part-time restaurant dishwasher, occasional motivational speaker and full-time marathon runner who, just last month, was inducted into the Manitoba Runners Association Hall of Fame as part of the Road Kill running team.

All of that, and more, by his mid 20s.

As for that more, there was much more than we could have guessed.

It turned out that Jonas arrived at life’s starting-line as a six-day-old foster kid with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), who would be adopted into Bev and George Eastcott’s Charleswood family.

Although Jonas didn’t mention the FASD part when we spoke.

He referred to his “anxiety” and “depression,” and how the running helps him cope.

“If you hide it,” he said,” you won’t get the help.”

He takes that mental health message wherever he goes to run, and beyond.

Particularly, Jonas said, to high schools where he said he speaks to students who think he’s one of them because the five-foot-nine, thin-as-a-pace runner’s stick 110 pound Jonas appears to be closer to 16 than 26.

“You’re an inspiration,” Gary told Jonas on Sunday.

“Your parents must be proud of you,” I added.

He agreed.

“They didn’t think I’d be in this place or doing so well.”

It was only on Monday, when I spoke later with his mother Bev that I learned about her son’s FASD diagnosis. And only when I spoke again with Jonas that he agreed to allow me to mention it.

“The more awareness the better,” he said over the phone from his work place at Segovia Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

Bev always knew he had FASD, because she had arranged with the birth mother to take her baby. But the out-of-control behaviour that can come with it didn’t manifest until he became older.

“By 12 we had to put him back into care,” she said.

Macdonald Youth Services looked after him for a time, and by the time he reached New Directions he became what his mother called a bit of a poster boy for what kids with FASD can do and become.

Eventually, Jonas settled into a special needs class at Kelvin High School, where Bev said a teacher helped encourage his athletic ability, including the running Jonas started in Grade 3. But Jonas said it was watching his younger foster brother run a race that finally got him into it nine years ago.

GORDON SINCLAIR JR. / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jonas Eastcott carries this card to help runners in the Winnipeg Police half marathon keep pace.

That’s when he learned something that running taught him that he tries to teach others about starting to run, and about life.

“You’re the only one who’s holding you back.”

When I spoke with Bev I suggested, as I had with Jonas, that she must be proud of him.

“I like who he’s become,” Bev said with a little laugh.

It’s the running in combination with the medication that’s put him on the right road, she said.

He just has to keep running and reaching out to help others, the way Jonas said he did when the police half-marathon was ending and he went back and ran to the finish line with the last runner.

It’s the runners who take five hours to complete a marathon, Jonas told Gary, that he admires the most.

And people like Natalie Pirson who wheeled her push chair around the half marathon in 4:12.

“They’re absolute heroes,” Jonas said.

Much as Jonas is in his own way.

Although, the parents who adopted Jonas, might share that spotlight.

Bev Eastcott told me she has fostered 25 children over the years, but Jonas is the only one she adopted.

“He was a baby when he came,” she explained. “He was like mine. How can you part with him?”

Which leaves us with Gary’s final question for Jonas Eastcott.

“Who was your greatest inspiration?” my old boyhood buddy asked.

Jonas didn’t hesitate.

“My mom, obviously.”

Obviously, indeed.

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