Celia Allman-Watts calls Unified track the best thing that ever happened to her son Randall.
But since then, Randall, who has autism and began running Unified track for Columbus North as a freshman three years ago, has been running longer distances. He’s done several 5Ks and a 10K.
In September, he plans to run his first half-marathon in the Mill Race event.
“We tried having him run several years ago, and he would cry,” Celia said. “But when they started a Unified track program at North, he really took to it. Unfortunately in Unified track, they just have the shorter distances. The longer he goes, the better he does.”
Story continues below gallery
Randall, 17, will be a senior at North. He started running Unified track after his math teacher, Shane Teague, told him about it.
Last year, Celia and her husband Tom and Randall Watts were featured in a YouTube video put out by the Indiana High School Athletic Association called “Unified Track: A Parent’s Perspective.”
At the time he started running, Randall weighed about 140 pounds. He’s shed about 20 of those pounds in the past three years.
Randall sometimes runs five or six days a week, with a long run on one of those days. His father rides a bike alongside him.
“It’s a release for him,” Tom said. “I think like a lot of serious runners, he may be five or six miles into a run and still be smiling. He just has that much fun with it, and if he’s planning to run and something comes up that he doesn’t get to do it, it bothers him.”
Randall had a slight setback two years ago when he broke his foot playing Frisbee golf. But he came back last year to win his age group for the Indiana Timing series.
His best 5K time is 24 minutes, 13 seconds. But both of his parents say that Randall is not that competitive.
“He doesn’t do well with team sports,” Tom said. “If he was playing basketball and somebody tried to get the ball, he’d just give it to them. The same thing with running, if somebody was getting close and said ‘Hey kid, let me pass you,’ he would slow down and let them pass. He likes to win, but he doesn’t have that competitive drive. He just loves to run.”
Last year, Randall was working toward running the Mill Race Half-Marathon. He was up to nine miles at one time before having to take time off from running because of a stress fracture in his ankle.
North assistant basketball coach and Southside Elementary teacher Chris Bodart has run some 5Ks with Randall and plans to run the Mill Race half-marathon with him Sept. 23.
“(Randall) doesn’t care about winning,” Celia said. “He just wants to go out there and have a good time. You can tell because whenever he does one of these 5K races, he’ll have a smile on his face at the start and the finish. He’ll have his fingers in his ears at the start because he doesn’t like the starting gun, but he’ll have the biggest smile on his face.”
And at the end, he’ll have a certain chocolate treat waiting for him.
“Everybody knows him from the M&Ms,” Celia said. “He’s become quite famous for being the one having the M&Ms after he’s done. He’ll have to have his M&Ms before he drinks a bottle of water. I don’t know how he can do it after he runs like he does.”
Name: Randall Watts
School: Columbus North
Year: Will be a senior
Best 5K time: 24 minutes, 13 seconds