Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who I am

A few days ago I was talking with someone on the phone who enthusiastically asked if I was watching the Olympics. Yes, I love the Olympics. My favorites are gymnastics and track and field. I really like watching the 1500, especially if there are Americans in the race. But before I could insert what I love, and before he could ask what I love, he asked what I thought of the guy with the disability who ran. It caught me off-guard a bit, because although I was aware of “that” guy, I hadn’t given him that much thought. And so, I thought back a few weeks…

My daughter took tennis lessons for a week (intro, large class, the basics) for an hour each morning, and though most parents seemed to drop their kids off and come back, or sit to the side and read, text, etc., there's were few of us there, watching the kids, taking pictures, and actually talking to each other.

At that time, I thought I really needed to write about the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and all my opinions on it - positive, negative, and in between. It’s important. The ADA was passed 22 years ago with wide bi-partisan support, but 22 years ago, I didn't know of the ADA. I was in high school, and my life consisted mostly of running and music (though good at academics, I really was more athlete and musician - piano and flute). But, I thought, in a way, I just should write something – it’s such a part of my life.

But one of those mornings in watching tennis lessons, I met another parent who had 2 daughters playing tennis. Somehow we got on the subject of running. He was a late bloomer in running, but he knew everything about it now - who's good in the U.S., and who has a shot at the Olympics. It's distance running - he, like me, ran cross country. We both got involved in the sport by just trying it out, knowing almost nothing about it, and becoming pretty good.

The next morning he was again there and I think we were the only parents who didn't drop off our kids. That day we dove into the past, the past of the Colorado running world, which colleges were good and are good, and who is where today. The dad went to Cherry Creek High School and played a lot of tennis, not running until later in high school. I went to Fort Collins High School (FCHS). Both schools have great running programs and now, traditions. My team at FCHS was the first girls' team to win State cross-country. We weren't supposed to win. The next year we weren't supposed to lose. We got third.

He is 6 years older than me and asked if I knew a guy from FCHS who owned all the records back then. I recalled the name, but then another guy got those records in 1989, and I knew him better. The FCHS boys' team also won State cross-country that year we won. Then one of them, Tim, roomed with Adam Goucher at the University of CO, and this guy knew Adam. Adam was awesome in college and then kept getting injured. He and Tim were/are working on making some video together. Adam's wife is in the Olympics this year - Kara Goucher – she was in the marathon. Lots of new news to me.

Melody Fairchild - my year - she lapped everyone in the 2 mile at State her senior year - she was that good, even in the world. Then she seemed to disappear. Apparently she is coaching somewhere.

We talked about the steeple chase, the marathon, the 1500, the 10,000. We laughed at the decathlon and when the athletes have to run the distance part - they're just not built for it.

Then we talked about kids - how much they run these days, and the possible burn-out... and the burn-out that may occur with each sport because it seems kids have to specialize by age 7 or 8.

There was a lot more that wasn't running, like where people went to college (how he met his wife, what she does), and this somehow looped back to running. Then I got caught up on which schools have been the best for running over the past 20 or so years via why he choose to go to school where he did. Neither of us pursued running scholarships. I went to Kenyon because the cross-country team was so fun (great school, too).

All this was great. I was ready for the Olympics.

As we were leaving, he said "By the way, I'm Dale." Of course, I'm Beth. We never talked about my wheelchair and he never asked. That hit me later – I was the person I have always been, engaging in talking about things I will always love. In a different sense than how it usually occurs (I go to be with people with disabilities, and disability seems to vanish), disability was left somewhere else, while we talked.

When I had the conversation with the other person (on the phone), it was just strange. After we hung up, I was a bit confused. Just because I have a disability, should I be expected to be focused on disability? Because I have a disability, do I always need to be the advocate and write on disability-related things? Or can I go back, and can I focus on the Olympics? That’s what I want to do – almost 2 weeks of Olympics. And then there are times when I want to be with others with disabilities.

I’ve found it’s a bit confusing, but that ok. What’s really important is so simple – I’m Beth, running will always be a part of who I am, and I have a disability. But mainly, I’m just Beth.


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