John Marino has been committed to fitness and athletics his entire life. He is a Chicago native, now residing in Santa Monica, CA. John attended Northern Illinois University during Coach Jerry Kills’ tenure. Medical obstacles were never an issue for him until he experienced his first tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure at 19 years old. His second tonic-clonic seizure took place two years later at the age of 21.
John decided to take on running as his primary athletic endeavor in his twenties. His goal was to become an avid marathon runner and an Ironman finisher. He suffered from focal onset (partial) seizures during almost every run he went on which took a mental toll on him. These seizures created fear, anxiety, worry, and embarrassment. However, he decided to continue to attempt and achieve his goals.
To date, he has completed 12 marathons, 1 Ironman and 2 half Ironman races while experiencing focal onset seizures. He has remained free of tonic-clonic seizures. In 2018, John summited Mount Kilimanjaro and completed 68 miles through a hike/run for charity. Everything changed for John on January 24, 2019. He was on mile 3 of a 48-mile endurance challenge when he noticed his focal onset seizures did not subside. He also started having an aura, which caused him to fall. John suffered his third tonic-clonic seizure during his run and was taken to the emergency room by ambulance after a bystander called 911.
He has then prescribed various medications and an order from his neurologist to take several months off from running. Over the next several months, he underwent extensive medical treatment — testing, extended hospital stays, MRIs, CAT scans, EKGs, 96-hour EEGs, and PET scans. The works. He was finally cleared for his first run. His distance of choice for this run was 4 miles and his ending spot would be the same location where he experienced his most recent tonic-clonic seizure.
His mottos are “Move towards fear regularly” and “The obstacle in the path becomes that path, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our conditions.”
2019 is his first year of truly treating his epilepsy directed by a neurologist, as he was in denial and embarrassed for years about his seizure disorder. John now considers his epilepsy to be one of his greatest assets. His goals are to raise money and awareness all over the world. Although he may never be able to attempt unsupervised surfing or an open-water triathlon, he wants to show we can still live our best lives.
Alongside his passion for athletics, his professional career is spent as a multinational business development manager at a global management consulting firm. He is also the co-founder of the non-profit, The Ohana-Kane Project. Their mission is to create a unique fitness community for men while raising money and awareness for various charities. John is also a member of the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago marathon team. In 2019, he became a Lululemon ambassador out of their Santa Monica location.
His proudest achievement to date is being named an Athletes vs Epilepsy Regional Ambassador, which provides him a platform to give support to all athletes with epilepsy and encourage everyone to face their fears, regardless of how daunting they may be!