About two miles into the Maryland Half Marathon, Alex Paddison thought, “Wait, maybe I can win this thing.”

Alex Paddison is well-acquainted with the strong feelings that accompany intense sporting events. He mixes it up as a midfielder on the Tuscarora boys lacrosse team and leads the school’s cross-country squad at nearly every meet. 

To his dismay, though, the 2013 News-Post first-teamer has never won a race, and he bitterly mentions the name of a rival who somehow kept topping him last fall.

“In cross-country there’s always somebody better than me, which makes me really mad,” he said.

Entered in a different kind of race last Saturday, Paddison’s emotions weren’t nearly as high-strung as he set off on a run that was 10 miles longer than the typical cross-country event — a distance he had never even completed in training.

Funny, then, how no one was better than him in a field of 844 finishers. 

With a pink T-shirt bearing a little girl’s likeness on his torso and charity on his mind, Paddison was running the Maryland Half Marathon with his brother, Evan, in honor of Frehiwot “Marra” Olsson, a 2-year-old Walkersville girl who died when she was struck by a car a year ago, and his grandfather, who died of pancreatic cancer. (Money raised from the Maryland Half Marathon goes toward cancer research.) 

Alex, 17, didn’t expect much of anything from himself Saturday in Fulton. His competitive juices weren’t exactly pumping, seeing as how his lacrosse season ended in playoff defeat a few days earlier.

His mother, Kimberly Paddison Herr, had asked if her boys would like to enter the event on short notice. Hardly motivated to go for broke like he does for the Titans, Alex said, “Sure, why not?” It was for a good cause, after all.

Then, the race started. Two miles in, a glance to Paddison’s rear revealed an encouraging gap between him and everyone else. 

His mindset changed.

“I didn’t feel the competitive (push) to go super, super hard,” he said. “Like, 2 miles in, I was like, ‘Wait, maybe I can win this thing. Don’t hold anything back.’”

Sure enough, he became the youngest winner of the 6-year-old event in a time of 1 hour, 22.14 seconds.

Meanwhile, Evan came in second in his age group (16-19).

If simply running the race was a way the brothers wanted to remember Marra — who was adopted from Ethiopia by Amy and Sten Olsson, close friends of the Paddisons — then winning it was an even better way to keep her memory alive, which is of great importance to the Olssons.

The Paddisons’ effort made their mother proud, too. She has raised her children to think of others and join her in helpful endeavors. The boys’ participation Saturday was an extension of a movement the Olssons started, encouraging others to commit acts of kindness to honor their daughter.

“They wanted to do this,” Paddison Herr said of her sons. “We’re a unique family. We’re blessed with everything we have in our life, so if we can do things for other people, that’s what we do.”

Alex Paddison wasn’t intimidated by the distance of the race. Even though lacrosse isn’t quite as aerobic as cross-country, he had maintained a high fitness level even after the fall season. For instance, this spring, there were many times when he ran three miles after school — right before lacrosse practice.

“Practice starts at 4, so some days I just come home and run on the treadmill,” he said.

That kind of devotion figures to help him attain another big win that might mean more to him than anyone else.

“Once I win a cross-country race,” he said, “that’s when I’ll be satisfied.”

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