Kalamazoo hand cyclist ‘thankful’ Planet Fitness helping him get to Boston Marathon

Posted at 6:52 PM, Feb 15, 2019

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Nick Nieboer has been on cloud nine for the last few months, he said. Back in October 2018 he competed in the Grand Rapids Marathon for hand cycling but he almost backed out. His anxiety was so high the night before that he only got one hour of sleep. However he pushed through it and completed the race in a record time of 01:35:09.

“Once I crossed that finish line, I spread my arms out. I was done,” said Nick who was born with spina bifida. “I found out actually after that race that I also had broken the record for the 2nd fastest Grand Rapids marathon time in history.”

Nick thought that was his only victory that day until he spoke with a neighbor.

“I actually called my former neighbor up. He runs in the Boston Marathon almost every year,” Nick said. “I told him my time and what I had raced in and he said ‘Nick I think you just qualified for the Boston Marathon.’”

Nick didn’t believe him, he said. Prior to the race, Nick’s friend told him that the marathon wasn’t a qualifying race for Boston. His neighbor double checked that tidbit.

“He called somebody up from Boston,” Nick said. “They told him 'yeah that was a qualifying time. You, you made it'. So he called me back and said ‘Hey Nick, you and me we’re going to Boston together.’”

Nick was beaming, he said. Competing in Boston had been a dream of his since he was 8 years old. He even received a letter from Boston Marathon officials telling him he’d qualified. The next step for him though was finding the money to get there.

That’s when his friends at Planet Fitness stepped in.

“We’re just throwing a huge party for him to kind of celebrate his success and raise some money for him to help him get to the Boston Marathon,” said Shawn Hoover, the central region manager with Planet Fitness. “The front desk loves hanging out with him. We love him being here and just the positive energy he brings in every single day.”

Dozens of people attended Nick's party Friday afternoon. WKFR radio station broadcasted live from the event between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Some people donated money to the fundraiser. Others, chatted and ate some of the catered food. As for Nick, he was smiling the whole time.

“Nobody can do anything on their own,” Nick said. “So you need to have somebody to help you along the way. These people, they all have stepped in and done an amazing job to help me get this far.”

***If you’d like to help Nick get to the Boston Marathon or the any upcoming race, click here.***