It’s been over 20 years since my mom had her first major stoke, and less than one year since her second—the one that left her unable to walk or stand on her own. If you’ve witnessed the physical deterioration of a family member or friend, you know about the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on. And maybe, like me, you’re hoping to create some special memories with the person you love.
My mom has never been a runner, but she’s always been my number one fan. No matter what sport I was in growing up, I could always count on seeing her face in the crowd. As an adult my focus switched to long-distance running, and though she never really understood why I liked it so much, she did come see me run in a few marathons. She acknowledged how inspirational the races were, but always laughed at my idea of us walking a race together.
So when my mom lost her ability to walk last spring, I figured my dream of finishing a race with her was over. Then I remembered Team Hoyt, the father-son duo who’ve rocked the marathon and iron-distance triathlon again and again—dad pushing and pulling his adult son through races.
With the idea of running a race with my mom, I looked everywhere for a jogger like the one I’d seen Team Hoyt use. I posted requests on Facebook, sent e-mails to organizations I though might have one, made numerous phone calls. I’d just about lost hope when a friend of a friend hooked me up with myTEAM TRIUMPH, a non-profit organization that provides joggers to people who want to hook up with disabled others to run road races or participate in triathlon.
myTEAM TRIUMPH made the impossible possible. I’d found a way to go for a run with my mom.
With a jogger on the way and a plan in place, I registered my mom and me for the Turkey Day 5K run in downtown Minneapolis. It seemed a little ballsy—she hates going over little bumps in her regular wheel chair and I worried running might just be too much.
We did a practice walk, just down the block and back… got my mom in and out of the chair with little hassle. Despite our preparations, I also readied myself for disappointment. I thought of alternatives. I told Mom it was okay if she changed her mind. So when the 8 a.m. start time was just too early for her, I brought the race to her later in the day—an out and back from her house, our own Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot where she finished her first-ever run, covering 4.33 miles. Yes, much to be thankful for.
I’ll admit that pushing the jogger was physically hard work. But truth be told, my work paled in comparison to what my mom did. At 77 years old, she cruised through 45 minutes with the wind in her face, bumps in the road, hills to climb and descend, unable to readjust her body or control the jogger. She didn’t complain; she just smiled, feeling the wind in her face and finally, I hope, getting a sense for why I run.
When we got back to her house, I gave her a hug; I reminded her how proud she should be. “I am,” she told me, which was music to my ears.
I’m so thankful for family and friends this holiday season… for the strength and support they’ve shown me over the years. Especially my mom, who is now just a tiny bit closer to me than ever before.