Pingree Math Teacher John Young and Alumnus Tom Smith ’08 Team Up for TV Special

Pingree Math Teacher John Young and Alumnus Tom Smith ’08 Team Up for TV Special

Pingree School is excited to share that math teacher John Young and alumnus Thomas Smith ’08 teamed up recently for the second season of the NESN Marathon Motivations Sports Spotlight Series.

Marathon Motivations was created by Tom, president/co-founder of The Thomas E. Smith Foundation, to display the amazing strength of the human spirit as well as to inspire and motivate people to “be the change that they want to see in the world.”

This year's show features John along with Stanley Cup Champion and Boston Bruins legend Zdeno Chara, marathon icon Rick Hoyt and his nephews Troy and Cam, and cancer survivor and marathon enthusiast Susan Hurley. Each of these inspiring individuals participated in the Boston Marathon on April 16, to make a significant impact within their respective communities. The episode originally aired on NESN on Sunday, March 19, and the full episode is available on YouTube

John and Tom’s relationship began over 15 years ago when Tom was a student in John’s math classes in grades 10 and 12. They stayed in touch after Tom graduated from Pingree, but their bond deepened after the first of Tom’s three major spinal cord injuries in August of 2009, setting him on a life-altering path of perseverance, courage, and connection. After recovering from his first injury, Tom sustained another, completely unrelated, spinal cord injury while playing hockey on October 1, 2009—when he was originally cleared, doctors told Tom he had a better chance of winning the lottery 5 times in a row than having two separate accidents of this nature. Tragedy struck again on January 11, 2010, when Tom and his father were in a serious car accident. Both men were hospitalized with spinal cord injuries. Rather than submitting to a “why me/why us” mentality, Tom and the Smith family dedicated themselves to raising awareness around paralysis, being advocates for patients with spinal cord injuries, and developing the Look Up Line™ to increase safety in youth hockey.

After his first injury, local therapists warned Tom and his family that it was likely he’d be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his lift. Refusing to accept a dead-end, he went to Florida for a grueling rehabilitation program at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis Center. Within nine months of his initial injury, Tom regained strength and mobility, being cleared to play hockey at a high level once again.

2009 was a transformative year for John as well; after seeing a video of Dick and Rick Hoyt competing in an Ironman triathlon, John laced up his shoes and hit the pavement, completing his first triathlon that year at the age of 43. Since then, he has completed over 50 triathlons, including 10 half-Ironman distance races and Ironman Maryland in 2016, and 20 marathons, including the Boston and New York City marathons six times each.

This refusal to accept conventional wisdom and forge their own paths is a trait the two men have in common.

John shares, “One of the most common things people say to me is, ‘I could NEVER run a marathon’ and my response is always the same: ‘You have to want to do it.’  I truly believe anyone can do it if they put in the work and have a positive mindset but you have to truly believe in yourself.”