Tyson Hollerman (Major Dodson) is a fifteen-year-old autistic boy who has been homeschooled by his mother Ellie (Amy Smart) all his life. Now he is starting to attend mainstream classes at the high school where his father Bobby (Rory Cochrane) works as a football coach. Tyson at first wants to play football like his father, but he soon discovers that he has a great talent for running. He is trained by Aklilu (Barkhad Abdi), a shoe salesman and former champion runner, and works towards his goal of winning the Standbridge Marathon.
Tyson's Run contains examples of:
- The Bully: Bradley Burton (Isaiah Hanley) calls Tyson "Forrest Chump" and plays tricks on him, like pulling a chair out from under him.
- Career-Ending Injury: Bobby used to be a star college quarterback who might have won the Heisman Trophy, until his shoulder and knee were injured in a game.
- Family Versus Career: Bobby quits coaching so he can help train Tyson. The local newspaper runs a story with the headline "Family Over Football."
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Bobby never straight out tries to prevent Tyson from running, but he initially disapproves of his goal of running a marathon because he thinks he won't be able to do it and Ellie is giving him false hope. He comes around fairly quickly, though.
- Imagine Spot: When Aklilu agrees to train Tyson, he imagines news reports about his incredible speed playing all over the world.
- Say My Name: Tyson runs away from one of his parents' fights during a bad storm. His parents run outside and yell "Tyson!" After they call 911, state troopers comb the forest yelling Tyson's name.
- Sensory Overload: Tyson runs across a street without looking both ways, and ends up frozen in the middle of the street with multiple cars honking at him. Aklilu runs to him, gets the drivers to stop honking, and leads him to safety.
- Waving Signs Around: Spectators at the marathon wave signs supporting their favorite runners.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Tyson knows from hearing his parents argue about him that he's not what his father wanted. Part of his motive for wanting to win the marathon is to win his father's approval so his parents will stop fighting.
- Working Out Their Emotions: Tyson deals with stressful situations, like angry teachers at school and fighting parents at home, by running.