I’ve always wanted to write a blog, not because I’m a particularly skillful or entertaining writer, but because writing sometimes helps me capture special moments in my life. Thanks for letting me share it with you! Yesterday I had one of those moments. I met a young man, Zachary, who is going to be my training partner for some upcoming races. We will train together and compete together as a team. We’re going to start with a 10K at the Colorado Marathon, and perhaps work our way up to a triathlon! I’m so excited!
Zachary is a young man with clear grey-blue eyes and amazing smile. He has curly, sandy blonde hair. He loves being outdoors and going fast. He especially likes bumpy trails, AND he has 32 race bibs hanging on his wall! I found out (from his mom) that he seems to prefer blondes. What else? Oh yeah, he communicates, just not the way you and I do. He is in a wheelchair, but enjoys riding in his running stroller. He was so excited when he saw his stroller yesterday that he stopped eating his lunch!
Sometimes he has seizures. I will use that little magnet-thing and press it to the implant in his chest if he should happen to have one while we’re together. Don’t worry. Zachary is out and enjoying life.
Zachary has cerebral palsy, but we will not define him by that. He is Zachary, the guy with the infectious smile…
I also got to meet his parents, who were great! I immediately felt comfortable talking to Sandy and Mike, who so clearly love their son and want to give him every opportunity to enjoy life! I was equally impressed by Sandy’s philosophy about Zachary’s “story.” I wish I could remember what Sandy said… something to this effect: we need to recognize that people are who they are first, and not necessarily the people we want them to be. Sometimes we need to get down to eye level or lower, maintain eye contact, be quiet and wait for the connection. Hmm. Couldn’t we use this advice in many of our day-to-day interactions?
You’re probably wondering how my partner and I will race together. Through the use of adaptive equipment such a running stroller, bike stroller and a specialized raft, we will be able to compete in triathlons, walking, biking and swimming events! (I’ve got my work cut out for me!) The equipment is provided to the athletes though fundraisers and donations via Athletes in Tandem (AiT), a non-profit organization. For more information and photos, check out the AiT web site at http://www.athletesintandem.org/ .
I have asked myself what prompted me to commit to AiT. I’m not really sure… I learned about it from my coach and friend Wendy Mader and AiT founder Dennis Vanderheiden last year when I was training for the Colorado Half-Marathon. I was interested, but at the time had something to prove to myself… at least until my hip hurt so badly I didn’t even want to walk!
When registration for the Colorado Marathon opened up this year Wendy encouraged me to walk the half. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to walk a half – how long could that possibly take? Wouldn’t it be dark by the time I finished? Then I remembered AiT so I decided to enter the 10K with AiT. I went from feeling embarrassed about not running to being excited about being involved in such a great organization. I didn’t know what to expect, but Dennis paired me up with Zachary, the guy with the infectious smile, and I was hooked! Oh, and with him as my partner, we WILL walk a half, and fast!
How can I care for someone I just barely met? I know it sounds weird, but believe me, he is a special young man. His smile can light up the room! I immediately wanted to be one of the many people in his life who could help bring out those moments of joy. I want our races together to be about giving and doing the best we can! As a busy working mom/wife/daughter who seems to have little time for friends, I understand the significance of my choices. I want to be his friend and training partner.
I’m happy we’ve crossed paths.