This year’s Boston Marathon was a dream come true for many runners, but perhaps none more so than for Marie-Michelle Fortin of Chicoutimi, Que., who was born with cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair since childhood. Fortin got to experience this year’s Boston Marathon courtesy of Sherbrooke pediatrician and ultrarunner Sebastien Roulier and the Kartus wheelchair-stroller, which was designed by Philippe Oligny for an adult to be pushed by a runner. This engaging mini-doc by Radio-Canada tells the story (see our interpretation in English, below).
Fortin and Roulier first bettered the half-marathon mark by five minutes when they ran the 2018 Demi-Marathon Oasis de Lévis together in 1:30:37. Then in September they smashed the marathon world record at the Montreal Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon by almost 35 minutes, finishing in 3:01:24. That qualified them for this year’s Boston Marathon, where they ran 3:17:12.
In the documentary, we see Fortin and Roulier arriving in Hopkinton in torrential rain. They take shelter in the tent with the other wheelchair competitors. Thankfully, the rain let up before the race starts.
Then we go back to several days before the race, where we meet the Fortins at their home in Chicoutimi. Marie-Michelle explains that she has used a wheelchair for all of her 22 years, and does not have full use of her arms. Her mother, Nicole Larouche, describes how she was pregnant with twins, and delivered prematurely, at 29 weeks. Marie-Michelle weighed only 1,200g at birth, and her twin, Maryse, weighed only 600g, and died four hours later. Marie-Michelle was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at around one year of age.
Then we meet her father, Luc, who loves to run with her.
And then we meet Roulier at the Sherbrooke hospital where he cares for children in the intensive care unit. Roulier has been running for 20 years, and Boston would be his 56th marathon (and his 13th Boston Marathon). Roulier describes hearing about the Kartus stroller and its creator, Philippe Oligny, whom we meet briefly onscreen. Oligny describes his desire to enable people to share outdoor sporting activities who otherwise would not be able to do so, and the birth of the Kartus chair.
Fortin saw a media report about the Kartus chair, and was determined to get one for herself so that she could experience the joy of running.
Fortin and Roulier ran at Lévis having just met for the first time. For Fortin, the joy of being free from her electric wheelchair was indescribable. Then we see the pair racing in Montreal.
“When I saw the impact that racing had for Marie-Michelle… she experiences it like any other runner,” says Roulier, describing the joy it gives him to be able to touch her whole family in this way, speaking in Boston the day before the race.
We also see her father, Luc, and his obvious pride in his daughter. “My job as father is to accompany her through life,” he says, “and to be her arms when she needs me.” He says when they received her diagnosis, they never could have imagined that one day she would participate in the Boston Marathon.
We see the group at the expo, picking up their bibs and chatting with other runners and volunteers.
And then, the race is on.