PHOENIX – As he reached the last mile of his marathon journey AIDS survivor and advocate Isadore Boni felt inspired by the cheers of the crowd. Knowing his goal was getting closer with every step, he knew the message he put on his shirt was educating people.
“I felt like there was no way I could have been able to do this. As tired and sore as I felt, I got a sense of strength all of a sudden. People were cheering for me, ‘AIDS Survivor good job.’ My goal was reached, people throughout the marathon got the message that even a stigmatized virus like HIV has no limits. When I crossed the finish line, I was feeling empowered and blessed.”
Boni crossed the finish line of the Phoenix P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll marathon in five hours and eighteen minutes for his very first marathon and stated, “It was the toughest thing I ever done.”
But even getting to the starting line of that marathon had some obstacles for the San Carlos Apache tribal member. In July, Boni suffered a fall while climbing that resulted in a broken toe. He lost a month of training due to the injury. As soon as Boni could, he was back out training only to suffer another setback.
“I couldn’t breathe, I knew what it was. Pneumonia is very common among people with HIV. I thought the worst would happen since I’ve known many Native friends with HIV who died of pneumonia. I fought as hard as I could and once again, I was fortunate to get back up and pursue my goal.”
Boni didn’t let a day go by without a workout. Phoenix also went through a cold winter weather spell that complicated things but he continued to train.
Boni is no stranger to the P.F Chang’s runs, but he never ran the full marathon. After finishing last year’s half marathon for the fifth time, Boni stated he always wanted to be able to run the full marathon. “This past June I decided it was time, I’m not getting younger, I’m marking 15 years of having HIV in 2015. It has to happen before I become unable, it’s been a dream too long.”
After completing his first marathon, Boni said his goals are all about educating others about HIV and AIDS and running for those who lost their lives to the disease.
“As I challenged myself for 26.2 miles in memory of those who passed on, I encourage others to continue the fight. An HIV diagnosis is not the end. That’s what this run is all about. Hope.”
Rhonda LeValdo, Acoma Pueblo, is a current faculty member in Media Communications at Haskell Indian Nations University. She is a past president of the Native American Journalists Association.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Wellbound Storytellers. Used with permission. All rights reserved.