NEVER GIVE UP: Crescent City Classic runner with Down Syndrome hopes to inspire others

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 8:37 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2022 at 8:00 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Determined and focused, Craig Blackburn, 40, is up for the challenge of running the Crescent City Classic on Saturday, April 16.

For Blackburn, who was born with Down Syndrome, it’s not just a race. It’s about defying the odds and showing the importance of inclusion.

“My goal is to complete the whole run without stopping,” he said as he gives his trainer Chris Heine a fist bump.

Blackburn will wear the number 321 on his running bib at the Classic, something that is important to him.

“It’s to motivate other self advocates why it’s important to our community. To help awareness, to give back to others and to motivate other families, parents, and advocates out there,” he said.

Runner 321 is an initiative started by Adidas which asks races and marathons “to hold bib #321, a number representing trisomy 21 in the Down syndrome community, for a neurodivergent athlete to ensure their representation in mainstream sports.”

Heine is helping Blackburn complete his mission. Ahead of race day, they’re working on half-mile runs mixed in with quarter-mile walks.

While he is the trainer, he said Blackburn has become his inspiration.

“He’s super impressive on the track. He’s a great motivator for myself just to see him get out there and what he’s capable of. And that’s kind of the message I want to send out there and Craig, we all have the same message, get out there and be motivated because the possibilities are limitless when you just put your mind to it,” said Heine.

He said there’s no one else he’d rather run the Classic with.

“This is all about Craig crossing that finish line. He may not be the fastest, but watching him cross the finish line is what this day is going to be all about,” he said.

Blackburn said crossing the finish line on race day will be a complete joy. With all eyes on the finish line, he said there’s someone special he’ll be doing it for-- his wife of almost six years.

“I will dedicate to Heather because she’s been out with COVID for 80 days, and this is for Heather to get inspired by me and our families,” said Blackburn. “She’s feeling better. She’s home. She’s on oxygen but she’s getting better every day.”

He hopes to prove to her and everyone else that a disability shouldn’t limit you.

“You never give up. You can have success, but it comes in trying,” said Blackburn.

It doesn’t stop at the Crescent City Classic for Blackburn. This June he is heading to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida, to represent Louisiana in basketball.

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