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Run, John, Run: Man With Non-Verbal Autism Set To Run 50-Mile Race In Folsom On World Autism Day

FOLSOM (CBS13) -- Running a marathon is tough enough, but how about 50 miles? This weekend, a race in Folsom will include hundreds of ultra-marathon runners pushing their athletic limits through foothill trails.

One runner with non-verbal autism is proving there is no limit to what you can do.

As a child, John Almeda was diagnosed with non-verbal autism.

"They really set up limits and limitations for him by telling me not much was possible," mom Vanessa Bieker said.

She refused to believe that was true.

"We just dug in and we got giddy with grit and grace," she said.

That set up her son to hit the ground running.

"You could say he was always a runner because he would bolt out of the house and take off at 2 or 3," Vanessa said.

John got serious in 2015 when he spotted an outdoor track during his daily walk with Mom.

"That's when his gift really opened up," she said.

John started with smaller races before running half marathons – and the Boston marathon – but that wasn't enough.

"After he would run marathons, he wasn't done," Vanessa said. "He would still run five miles around wherever the race was."

So what's next for a runner with no off-switch? How about 50 miles?

Supported by friends and family, John is running the American River 50 on World Autism Day.

"He's really out there running for awareness and running for his community," Vanessa said.

John will run alongside the race's 2021 winner, Reed Brewer.

"I'm going to be guiding him," Reed said.

Reed will meet John for the first time at the starting line and was given little instruction for guiding his race partner.

"He needs help with pacing, fueling, hydrating, and staying on course, and my response was, 'Oh, so he's just like everyone else out there.' " Reed said.

So when the race begins, there are just two thoughts in mind for this runner: first, to finish; and second, to not let anyone hold him back.

"Don't let anyone put limits on what you can and can't do," Vanessa said to her son. "You are created perfectly."

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