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Brothers Go the Distance

A teen triathlon racer never leaves his brother behind

Noah Aldrich, 14, regularly competes in youth triathlons. Triathlons are long-distance races that involve swimming, biking, and running. Noah hasn’t won a race, but he’s not trying to. He refuses to leave behind his 12-year-old brother, Lucas, who is in a wheelchair. Noah pulls his brother on a raft when he swims and in a trailer when he bikes. He pushes Lucas in a cart during the running portion of the triathlons. 

Lucas has a rare condition called lissencephaly (lih-sehn-SEH-fuh-lee). This means “smooth brain.” People with the condition lack the folds that are  part of a healthy brain. They can have difficulty walking, talking, and swallowing, among other symptoms. 

Noah (top) and Lucas both compete and play together.

In Noah’s view, this doesn’t mean that Lucas should be left out. “Even though kids like Lucas have disabilities, it doesn’t mean that they’re limited,” Noah says. “You can find a way to include them in everything.” And that’s exactly what Noah does.

When Noah was 8 years old, his mother showed him a video of two brothers competing in a triathlon. One had a disability. “It inspired me to do that with Lucas,” Noah says. 

Noah and Lucas threw the ceremonial first pitch at a Seattle Mariners game in 2017.

Tough Training

Training for such a grueling race isn’t easy, but Noah had an extra challenge. “I couldn’t even swim,” says Noah. “I had to learn before our first triathlon.” 

Noah trained hard in the pool at his local gym. Lucas joined him. 

On race day, Noah wasn’t sure he was ready, but he was determined to try. When they successfully crossed the finish line, Lucas’s face said it all. “He was the happiest I’ve ever seen him,” says Noah. “It was a great experience. We’re still doing it!”

In the six years since their first race, Noah and Lucas have competed in about 30 triathlons together. Noah knows he must work much harder than his competitors to get them both across the finish line. To prepare for races, the brothers train daily. “It’s not easy,” says Noah. “I have to be prepared so I can finish and keep Lucas safe.”

The Aldriches make sure Lucas gets to experience all the family’s adventures.

Brotherly Bond

Lucas’s condition can worsen at any time. So the brothers don’t take their time together for granted. “We do everything together,” Noah says. “We go everywhere together.”

They also don’t let the uncertainty about the future hold them back. Their goal is to someday compete in a grueling Ironman Triathlon. 

Noah’s bond with his brother has inspired many people. But Noah doesn’t feel that what he does is anything extraordinary. 

“I just wanted to do something for my brother,” he says. “Lucas doesn’t usually get to compete in typical sports. I can give him something that he doesn’t normally get to experience.”

Continue the Learning Journey
VIDEO
Triathlon Bros

Watch a video about a teen athlete who helps his disabled brother compete in triathlons.

After watching the video, think about ways you are a kind and special person to others. Then create a “What Makes Me Special Book” using these sentence starters:

  • One thing I like about myself is. . .
  • A compliment that someone has given me is. . .
  • Some things I do for my community are. . .
  • My family and friends use these positive words to describe me. . .
  • One thing I find special about myself is. . .

Share your book with a family member or friend to celebrate how special you are!

Find a space that’s at least 15 feet long. Mark a start line and an end line using tape. Draw a table that lists the following actions: walk, skip, run, hop. Click on the image to the left for a sample table.

Think about how many seconds it will take you to travel the distance in each way. Record your time estimates in the table. Then ask a friend or family member to time you as you do each activity. Record your actual times in the table. How do they compare to your estimates? Have your friend or family member try the challenge and compare your results!

 

Triathlons are multisport events that typically involve swimming, cycling, and running. Create a clothing design—from head to toe⁠—that would help competitors in each stage of a triathlon. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What types of materials would you use?
  • What would go on the head, body, arms, legs, and feet?
  • Does your design include any special features for swimming, cycling, or running?

Draw and label a picture of your clothing design. Explain how your design would be helpful to the competitor.

This article was written by Natalie Smith for Scholastic DynaMath magazine.

Image Credits: WENN.com/Newscom (Header); WENN.com/Newscom (Slide Image); Stephen Brashear/Getty Image (First Pitch); Stephen Brashear/Getty Image (The Aldriches)