My wife dragged the kids along on 5k runs. Great for the family, less for me. I mostly waited at the finish area. I needed more. When I heard of The Fathers’ Day, Amazon Foundation Run for the Trees, I decided that my spectator days were over. I would celebrate Fathers’ Day rolling with the family. I do not recollect great enthusiasm from the kids. Nonetheless, it was Fathers’ Day, my turn to call the shots.
I called the race organizer to ask if there was a wheel chair category. “Uh….yes, I guess that there will be.” I am not sure of proper training for a wheel chair race, so I tried to spend as much time as I could in the chair.
Race day was beautiful. Mid-60s, blue sky, flat course, ocean breeze- good for an amateur. One potential snag: I had to cross a patch of deep sand then head up a steep ramp to get to the start area. As soon as I sank the chair in the sand, I was surrounded by people wanting to help. A couple of guys helped me across the sand, while a third carried the chair. Next up was the slope. I had been working the hills, but nothing like this guy. My colleague, Ali Reza appeared and pushed me to the top.
I put pride aside and let him. Ali is good that way, He has that touch, the ability to lend the right amount of help, without making me feel gimpy. A rare gift.
When we got to the top, the racers were ready. The fastest in front, the slowest taking up the rear. I put myself 2/3 of the way back. The fast movers would be out of my way, and those behind me could fend for themselves. The race started out as expected- the kids disappeared ahead; I was passed by many. I rolled along, holding my own.
By mile 1, people were slowing. I started overtaking some. It felt good, I was not fast, but I was getting it done. I cruised ahead, the ocean to my left, the road ahead. I would target someone, and turn the wheels a bit faster until I passed them. Before long, I was picking off bunches. I was proud. I was going to finish in a respectable time. There was a nice down slope at the end, I accelerated to the point where the front wheels began to vibrate (must have been their terminal velocity) and passed a few more. I pressed it as hard as I could for the final ¼ mile.
Ali took some pictures and ran along with me. It was great; for so many reasons. Most importantly, in my own feeble way, I felt as though I was in play, despite finishing 20 minutes behind the slowest racers. And the best part was, I knew that with practice, I could go even faster. I felt that for once, I was fighting a fair fight.
Now, remember, the wheel chair category. As it turns out, I was not the only cripple out there. Another wheelie had entered. But since I was the fastest of us 2, I won, and got called up on the podium to accept my blue ribbon. First Place, Wheel Chair Category, Amazon Rain Forest Run for the Trees, 2010. Unbelievable. This could be another part of the puzzle that I was trying to solve.