On Saturday I ran in another organized 5k.* This one was a fundraiser for a great organization, Ability Connection. It's an awesome organization. Simply put, they drive community acceptance, support, and inclusion of children and adults with special needs. A little more wordy: they help people with disabilities live as independently as possible at home, or within a community. They provide transportation, manage group homes, and support companion living. They offer vocational training, academic training, health and fitness programs, and independent living skills training. There's a lot more, but maybe I'll write more about Ability Connection later; today I planned to talk about a runner.
This particular race was an "out and back." Just like it sounds, you run half the distance in one direction, then turn around and return along the same path. I loved the format -- you get to see all the other runners face to face at some point, and people would smile, wave, and be very supportive of each other, whether they were front of the pack or back.
One woman in particular stood out to me. I think she was close to my age, and she had a late-teen or young adult man (I assume her son) in a racing wheelchair; it looked like a very large jogging stroller.** This woman pushed her son the entire 5,000 meters -- up hills, through mud and standing water, across the crappy, temporary trail where the nice pavement was under repair, everywhere. I saw a lot of them because despite her extra burden, she was ahead of me most of the way.***
I can't think of a better visual example of what it's like to be the parent of someone with special needs. Sometimes the tasks are enormous -- surgery, fighting for a place in a school system, trying to find the money needed for your child to live comfortably. Many days it's more mundane -- repeating an OT or PT routine for the thousandth time, for example, or washing the sheets for the fifth time this week, or feeding the child who can't physically feed him- or herself.
Whatever the situation is, every day is another 5k, and you don't have the option to stop running, pushing, and carrying.
It's exhausting. But like I said, you can't just stop. One thing you can count on for most significant disabilities is that there's no magic bullet -- there's no day coming that your child doesn't have Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, Turner syndrome, muscular dystrophy. You won't hear the doctor say, "He's cured; you can stop running now." But you can get support from other people and get a breather every once in a while.
Thanks for a great event, Ability Connection, and thanks for everything you do to help people keep running.
* I'm going to keep running in these until I'm able to pin my number to my shirt in less than fifteen minutes. The difficulty I have in pinning that thing on without bunching up the fabric or displaying the number at a 45 degree angle is ridiculous.
** I'm not posting a picture because I didn't get to meet this family and haven't asked their permission. Just picture their awesomeness in your head.
*** Yeah. I'm not a fast runner.