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Two-time ESPY award winner and Guiness world record holder Chris Nikic will be at the starting line of the 2024 Grandma’s Marathon, the organization announced today.

Nikic was born with Down syndrome and was unable to walk well until age 4. Still, recently, he became the first person with Down Syndrome to complete each of the World Marathon Majors (New York City, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, London, and Tokyo) and earn the coveted Abbott Six Star medal.

In 2020, before completing any of his running-only marathons, Nikic became the first person in the world to complete an Ironman Triathlon — that competition consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run.

Nikic beat his own time two years later at the 2022 World Championships, and that mark of 16 hours, 31 minutes still stands as an official Guiness world record.

After accomplishing a goal that once seemed out of reach, Nikic co-wrote a book with his father, Nik, titled 1% Better: Reaching My Full Potential and How You Can Too.

The book chronicles Nikic’s journey from childhood to his teenage years when after high school, he was an admitted “overweight, out-of-shape” 18-year-old. As he slowly developed an affinity for exercise, Nikic also slowly changed his perception of what was possible in his life.

“That’s when he wrote on the wall that he was going to be a ‘world champ,’” his father Nik said. “We didn’t dismiss what he was telling us as impossible, we took it to heart and believed him. Then, we got to work helping him achieve that goal.”

“We’re honored to have Chris as part of our 2024 Grandma’s Marathon weekend,” said Zach Schneider, Grandma's Marathon marketing and public relations director. “We met Chris and his dad two years ago in Denver, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place after Chris had given his presentation. He’s exactly the type of person we want at our starting line, and we’re excited to continue the conversation about how those doors can be opened to other athletes like Chris.”

Down syndrome is a chromosome disorder caused by an extra chromosome 21. This prompted the creation of the Runner 321 initiative, which aims to welcome more neurodivergent athletes into endurance sports. On race day in Duluth, Chris will wear race bib No. 321 to symbolize that initiative. – Press release, edited