50 marathons. When I sit and start to try to wrap my mind around all the numbers it’s a little staggering! The goal is to be able to complete this project in 5 years. That’s 1310 miles of running in races in just 60 months, not to mention the countless miles of training in between. The numbers are big and pushing me well outside of my comfort zone!
I have always enjoyed running. My dad and I used to run together when I was a teenager, and he would track my times over the course of cross country seasons in high school. When I started running, most of the time it was about me. Going out for a run was claimed as my “me time” to be alone outside with my thoughts, my music, my pace. I was not concerned about getting anywhere fast and I enjoyed the feeling of my feet on the pavement and the wind in my face. This focus on "me time" all changed when I met my first athlete rider, John.
Standing in a mass of other angel runners on a brisk spring morning waiting for the start of my first 5k race as an Ainsley’s Angel, I was introduced to John, a seven year old who would be my running partner, and John’s mom who gave me a brief run through on what to do with John’s feeding pump.
When he was younger, John was in a car accident that resulted in traumatic brain injury. He is unable to walk on his own, unable to speak, and he is fed formula through a tube that goes directly into his stomach. He has a twinkle in his eyes that lets you know he is soaking in every moment of the things happening around him and a smile that will melt your heart. John was being fed his breakfast that morning of the race but that feeding would finish while we were out running. Though I am a nurse and am thoroughly familiar with feeding pumps and tubes I was not familiar with John. At the furthest point away on the race course we would be about a mile and a half away from his mom. What if he wasn’t tolerating his feeding well? What if he had a seizure? What if he needed something or was uncomfortable and was unable to let me know? These were all very real things which were racing through my mind about what could happen, yet John’s mom was still trusting me to run with him.
Off we went and I was out on the road with John. I wasn’t quite sure how that would go, just the two of us, but after the first few minutes my apprehensions quickly faded as John smiled and laughed down the race course! I have never seen such enthusiasm on someone’s face. John loved the feeling of running, wheels on the pavement and the wind in his face and the feeling was contagious! At the end of that 3.1 mile race I had fallen in love not only with an excited rider athlete but also the feeling of sharing my love of running with someone who physically cannot run. It was a gift of inclusion, our rider athletes can share in the excitement of race day, the wind in their hair, the accomplishment of teamwork, and the perseverance of an endurance sport.
50 Marathons. 1310 Miles. Those numbers change for me now. This journey is not about “me time”. Instead, I have the honor of working not by myself but as a TEAM of people helping to make this project possible. I have the honor of meeting 50 extraordinary people and their families and together having them pull me across 1310 beautiful miles that most people will never get to see and experience in the ways that we will. I have the privilege of providing 50 people that gift of freedom.
As I set foot on that first race course in a little over a week I expect I will have some butterflies (I do before every race). I also expect that I will think about all the angel riders that have brought me to this point to have the courage to take this leap of faith and complete this journey. Thank you, John, for being there for me for my first race and for pulling me along for some training runs. All great things start somewhere and this great project started with you.