Heading home after a tough day at work, Jeremy Haugh is beat — too tired, he knows, to run.
Someone else has other ideas.
Routinely, Haugh said, as he pulls his SUV into the driveway of the family's home in Charlottesville, Va., 8-year-old Jeremiah awaits, on the porch, flapping his arms excitedly in the air. That's the best he can do to tell his father he's ready to go.
Haugh shrugs, smiles and hugs his son. Moments later, having changed clothes, the 38-year-old Army lawyer helps Jeremiah into his running stroller and takes off on a one-hour jaunt, pushing the special needs child, who weighs 50 pounds, all the way.
It's a labor of love.
"It's our time together," said Haugh, who attended the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore. "Jeremiah loves 'running' with me; we've been doing this since he was one. He walks and talks a little, but it's unlikely that he's ever going to play soccer, or basketball, or run on his own. This way, he gets to do things that normal 8-year-olds do. In a lot of ways, this is his sport."
On Saturday, Haugh will compete in the Baltimore Marathon, his sidekick out in front. Jeremiah, who has global developmental delay, a neurological disorder, can't wait.
"He understands something is coming," Haugh said. "He knows he's going to get to spend a lot of time with daddy on Saturday."
To prep for the race, Haugh logs 3-hour runs on weekends, tirelessly pushing, for 20 miles or more, the first of the three children that he and his wife, Marianne, adopted. Jeremiah sits in the stroller, eyes sparkling, fingers curled around the handful of flags that he takes on each outing.
"He loves to hold the flags up in the breeze," Haugh said. "If I don't limit him to three or four flags, they'll act like a parachute."
A favorite flag is Old Glory. Haugh, who is from Waynesboro, Pa., has twice been deployed overseas, to Iraq and Afghanistan. A 2001 Maryland grad, he left private practice after 9/11 and joined the service. Currently, Haugh serves as command judge advocate of the army's JAG School, adjacent to the campus of the University of Virginia.
He began running long before adopting Jeremiah — Haugh completed three Ironman Triathlons while in law school — but his son's arrival in 2003, and subsequent diagnosis, changed his slant on training.
"I remember the first time we put him in the stroller, propping him up with towels, he was so small," Haugh said. "We took off and he loved it."
At 3, the child would climb into the stroller at midday, long before his father got home.
"He would have sat there, waiting for daddy, if I didn't get him out," his mother said.
Marianne Haugh called Jeremiah "the perfect running partner. There's no excessive chatter, but he lets you know that he's there.
"If Jeremy is going too slow," she said, "and the flags aren't flying fast enough, 'Miah starts complaining. He points. He makes sounds. He has always been known to get his point across."
Usually, daddy listens.
"He motivates me," Jeremy Haugh said. "Sometimes, Jeremiah forces me to run a lot farther."