Jarod Farrar has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that attacks and slowly cripples the lungs. He takes 70 pills a day and starts each morning with an hourlong routine that includes nebulizers and wearing a vibrating vest that helps shake mucus loose.

As part of a trip sponsored last month by Make-A-Wish, Jarod asked to run a 10k in Hawaii.

It would be his first 10-kilometer race.

“When I saw ‘three miles to go,’ I was like, ‘No!’ The whole rest was just brutal,” said Jarod, 17.

Brutal, sure, but he slayed it.

Jarod finished 18th of nearly 1,800 runners.

“He’s an absolute beast,” said Leavitt Area High School assistant track coach Kevin Hudner. “He’s one of those people who is unstoppable.”

Jarod, of Greene, a soon-to-be graduating senior, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby.

He cried a lot, said his mother, Vicki Farrar. Doctors initially considered it colic. At his 4-month-old checkup, he’d lost 2 pounds.

“He was white, white, white,” Vicki Farrar said. “It wasn’t until we ended up at Maine Med that they diagnosed him. They even said he was already in a hibernation state — in another 24 hours he would have been gone.” 

Jarod had stopped eating because it hurt too much. With the right medication and intervention, “we had him back on a bottle in two weeks,” she said. “He (was) the happiest, easiest baby ever.”

Growing up, Jarod had serious lung infections every year, a common side effect, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Excess mucus in the lungs allows germs “to thrive and multiply.”

Around freshman year, Jarod realized that running made him feel better. Better than that, the infections stopped.

“Immediately, when I started cross country, that fall I didn’t have anything,” Jarod said. “Right through high school, I’ve never stopped running.”

In the fall, it’s cross country. Winter, Nordic skiing. Spring, track.

By sophomore year, he started paying more attention to lung-capacity tests. 

“I started having a way better percentage than the average person who didn’t have CF,” he said. “There’s definitely lots of meds I have to take, but you get used to them. Sometimes my lungs hurt, like I’ve got to cough up mucus and that hurts a lot, and that happens every day almost, but it never really affects me. I’ve just got to get it out.”

His doctor at Pediatric Specialty Care connected Jarod with Make-A-Wish after lobbying for children with CF to be eligible for the program. 

“There was a long period where they weren’t deemed ‘sick enough,'” Vicki Farrar said. “We did try another children’s wish (organization) and got a letter saying, ‘You’re not sick enough; you’re not going to get it,’ and that was kind of devastating. His first words were, ‘How can they tell me I’m not sick enough? It will kill me in the end, just like cancer.’ It was hard when that happened. When (Make-A-Wish) said, ‘You qualify,’ it was huge.”

Next, to plan

Jarod said Hawaii immediately popped into his head. He and his father, Darin, run 5ks each summer around Lewiston-Auburn. When his father discovered the Ford Island Bridge Run 10k, there was no question: They were in.

On April 2, on a humid, cloudless day, Darin, Jarod and his big brother, Reed, 18, took off near Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam.

To the family’s shock, a high school band turned out to cheer him on. Strangers stationed along the route held signs.

“I’m thinking, ‘Wow, they have somebody (running today) and they spell their name just like Jarod,'” Vicki Farrar said. “I was the proud mom. I was so proud to be able to stand there and talk with so many people about him.” 

Jarod finished the race 18th overall, 5th in his age group.

“I was going for sub-40 minutes; I didn’t know how to pace myself,” he said. “I knew it would be warm, and I did just above 39 minutes.”

He averaged a 6-minute, 19-second mile, according to a Hawaiian website that tracks race results.

The family fit in snorkeling and deep-sea fishing on their other days there.

This fall, Jarod plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Its Nordic skiing program was part of the draw. He hopes to become a dietitian and personal trainer, helping people one on one.

He works out every day, if not at school then in the family’s unheated garage. He also carefully watches his diet. Kale is a current favorite.

If he didn’t know Jarod’s background, Hudner, his assistant track coach, said from watching him work out and run, he’d never guess Jarod has CF.

“I think it inspires the whole team,” Hudner said. “People who understand what he’s going through, people who know what his future is, are super inspired.”

The average life expectancy for someone with the disease is just under 40, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Vicki Farrar said they know people who’ve lived longer, “but they fought just like him.”

“I’ve never really let it hold me back, ever,” Jarod said. “Each time I get a lung infection, it’s just one time closer to destroying the lungs. So the less lung infections I can get (the better).” 

So he runs, and he’ll keep running.

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