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Runner completes mini-marathon in Kokomo after race cancelation in Indianapolis

Brittiani Gillem celebrates 30th birthday with twin sister on Industrial Heritage Trail

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CELEBRATING — Brittiani Gillem (right) poses with her twin sister Brooke Gillem (left) with their birthday cake and flowers after celebrating their 30th birthday by completing a mini-marathon on the Industrial Heritage Trail on Sunday, April 26.

Although the Indianapolis mini-marathon in May was canceled, local runner Brittiani Gillem didn’t let that stop her from running her own race.

Gillem, along with her twin sister Brooke Gillem, decided to run their own mini-marathon on the Industrial Heritage Trail on Sunday, April 26, the twins’ 30th birthday. Between 15 and 25 friends and family lined the course to cheer them on during the 13.1-mile race, and Gillem said that made this race more special than other races she previously competed in.

“The other races, which I usually compete in, and a lot of races really, this one was more special. Everybody that was there I knew. It’s really cool when you’re doing other races, and there’s other people there cheering you on. That’s really neat. It was really more special with it being family and friends during the race,” Gillem said.

Additionally, Gillem said completing the race with her sister, who biked the race instead, added to the meaningfulness of the event. The two began running in middle school and continued in their high school careers at Lewis Cass, participating in cross country, basketball, and track. Ever since, Gillem said she has not stopped running and has continued to increase her distances. She has competed in several mini-marathons and three full-marathons.

Starting at the south end of the trail, Gillem ran the entire length of it, continuing onto the Nickel Plate Trail briefly before turning back and finishing where she began. She ended the half-marathon with a time of 2:34, hitting the goal she set for herself to be between 2:30 and 2:45.

Running the race this way, Gillem said, was an alternative way to run the Indianapolis race. That race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and runners were given the option to hold their enrollments until next year or run the distance of the race on their own time and submit their results virtually, which Gillem did. She said medals likely will be sent in July. She will send hers to an 8-year-old boy in Virginia, Ryan Desai, who she runs for as part of a national program.

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“I run for this kid named Ryan. He has a rare bone disorder where he cannot run or walk. I’ve been running for him for about four or five years, and I always send him my medals,” Gillem said.

Brittiani Gillem

BONDING — (Left to right) Brittiani Gillem meets with 8-year-old Ryan Desai in Virginia. Gillem kisses the bricks after finishing the mini-marathon in Indianapolis last year.

After joining the private Facebook group “I Run 4 Michael,” Gillem was matched with Desai after a year of waiting. The group matches runners with other adults and children who cannot walk or run on their own. After using FaceTime to interact with Desai for a couple of years, Gillem finally traveled to meet him. She said although they had never met in person, it felt like they had known each other for years.

Along with enjoying the adrenaline rush running brings her, Gillem said having Desai to support as she competes in races is part of what she enjoys about running.

“It’s just really awesome that I can do that for him. It’s not just all about me but also about other people,” Gillem said.

Additionally, Gillem runs for Ainsley’s Angels of America, an organization that raises awareness for individuals with special needs. In these races, participants run while pushing a child or adult with special needs in a specific chair designed for the race. Gillem planned to run in an Ainsley’s Angels race in Indianapolis this year while pushing her cousin, but that race was canceled as well.

“That was kind of a bummer because I was going to push Brielle, my little cousin. But that’s all right. We’ll push her again in another race. So that’s kind of helpful too, just being able to do something for somebody else,” Gillem said.