New Port Richey athlete with autism invited to run Boston Marathon

Marlynn Stutzman is 23 and has spent months training for what she calls the race of her life. 

The New Port Richey woman, who has autism, was granted a rare invitation to race in the prestigious Boston Marathon Monday, April 17.

"I am super excited, it's like a dream come true," she told FOX13's Mark Wilson. "It shows people what I could do. I'm not good at reading, so I wanted to show people what I am good at."

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She has been participating in the Special Olympics games for years. Her competitors called her "The Fish" because she was such a good swimmer. 

But everything changed when her swim coach suggested she try a triathlon, and she didn't hesitate. 

She was as impressive as her coach expected.

"She finished first in her age group," her father, Tod, told FOX13. "So that's when they knew she was not only a fast swimmer but a fast runner too."

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In her first 5k, Marlynne finished in 19 minutes, an average of just over six minutes per mile. And a life with autism often comes with a life of doubters, so Stutzman seems driven to prove anyone who doubts her abilities wrong. 

"People have said [to me], ‘You have fire on your feet.’ And I just say, ‘Do you wanna burn that fire out? Or no?’" she said with a grin.

Marlynne was nominated as a possible runner by Chris Nikic and his 1% Better Foundation. He's the Florida man who became the first athlete with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon in 2020. His foundation now works to create more opportunities for special needs athletes to compete in high profile events.

Tracy Putnam is Marlynne's trainer and sponsor who she met through the 1% Better Foundation. 

"She is a serious athlete, sometimes after 10 miles we don't even talk to each other," Putnam said. 

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She ran alongside her, monitoring her pace, heart rate and nutrition. 

"We want everyone to know that health and fitness is so important in everyone's lives including these neurodivergent athletes. They are incredible," Putnam said.

So Marlynne's new life on the run will surely help open doors to races for others. 

"To show people what I can do would mean a lot to me," Marlynne said. "I can do something like that to inspire people like me, who have autism." 

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But this is not nearly the end for her. She has been invited to participate in a triathlon in Slovakia in May. 

"I couldn't be any prouder," her dad said.

And we couldn't let Marlynne go before asking her what's on her playlist, inspiring her during her marathon run. 

"Country," she replied. "Taylor Swift, actually. Lots of Taylor Swift."

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Marlynne finished the Boston Marathon Monday, crossing the finish line in the rain, hands held high with a time of four hours and 25 minutes. 

You can find more about the Chris Nikic 1% Better Foundation at