I went to a track on Oct 13 to try to get around it in less than 20 minutes. It had been a very long time since I had been back - timing was always just off. As I started to walk it really seemed so simple - I visualized myself picking up the pace on the final straightaway and through the final turn. But it was not so simple. Well, the first half was simple, right until I reached the spot where I thought I would pick up the pace. Then it got continually more difficult until the end, when I was just focused on each step, and trying to land on my heel with each step. If I don't land on my heel when wearing the Bioness contraption I wear, then the device turns on in a strange way and I have to just stand until it decides to pause. If you know me and read this, then when you see me pausing, I probably missed a heel strike and am waiting for the machine to "shut up."
But this post is not so much about all of that. This post is about 1 little boy.
As I was walking the back stretch, I saw a small wheelchair, and a boy just sitting in the wheelchair. The lady who must have been his mom was looking at me - not staring with the piercing stare of many, but instead with interest - that I was walking.
I finished and sat - whew! I had finished! I broke 20 min - in fact, I walked in 18:55. So I also broke 19 and in this strange way this is important. See, in high school, I was getting faster and faster and ran 19:10. Being that was the beginning of my senior season, I was all set to break 19 minutes. But that never happened. I got a strange injury, then woke up one morning with tingly legs just like a year before that, and again the tingly feeling went away after a few weeks. But I never got faster again. So I never, ever, broke 19 minutes. In some really strange way, breaking 19 minutes walking once around a track with a walker makes me feel like I broke that PR.
But this post is not so much about that, except in a round-about way.
When I finished, the woman wheeled her son to me, as another kid of hers had just finished one of those little kid football games. Someone else had a walker that belonged to the little boy. The woman just stopped and said to her son in a non-chalant manner, "See, she is walking."
I looked at him. I make up that his mom would like to see him try to walk more than he must be doing. And he looked at me with a bit of interest - this woman was walking, then sitting to wheel - she did both, just like him.
So I said "yes, I'm walking. And it looks like you can walk too. And you should. It takes a lot of work. I've been working on walking around a track for 2 years and it used to take me an hour." Then I paused, thought, and said, "and I know, it looks really strange. I might be completely bent over. But walking is really good for you so you should do it, and work on it."
He looked at me and smiled. His mom asked him if he could say thank you, "and use your words." And he said, using words, "thank you."
And then we left. Always, I have thought how odd it must look that I am out there, walking around a track with a walker. People must think this is very odd. Perhaps I should wear a sign that says something like "former runner... needs time on track." And I joke about no one else with a walker joining me.
Now I think, this is worth it. I don't necessarily want to be an inspiration to those who can walk and run and do things I can't. But maybe that one little boy will think about walking more. Maybe one day it will be him who will join me on the track and we can race.
On this disability awareness month, there is a theme called "what can YOU do?" I suppose I can show this little boy that you never know what your body can do until you try.
It's a sentimental story that on some level is completely, well, a bit too much.
But on the other hand, it's not a novel. It's real.
So for the few people who read this, do you ever wonder what YOU can do with the things you love to do?