“A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.” - Walt Disney

Sunday, January 27, 2013

When Racing to the Castle, Remember, The Turtle Won!

I haven't done a race recap yet for Disney Marathon Weekend because I just haven't figured out what I want to say about it.  There were so many highs and lows all packed into just a few days!  But I'll get around to putting together a few posts sometime soon (hopefully before I forget too many of the details). Before I go down that road, though, I want to do a post about another experience I had during Marathon Weekend that had nothing to do with me (well, other than being an amazed and inspired bystander).  So here goes:

Mickey @Kids Race (© RKP)
Looking back, one thing stands out as probably the highlight of the whole weekend for me: watching two of my friends' kids run the Kid's Races on Friday.  The general consensus within our group is that ROTE kids are awesome - and my friends Andi and Gina's kids proved to be spectacular on Marathon Weekend.  One thing you should know about Andi's kids is that they are truly special.  And not because "special" is the label society has placed on differently-abled individuals, but because of who they are inside.  (Please take a minute to visit Andi's blog Bringing the Sunshine, where she beautifully chronicles her family's challenges and accomplishments (warning -  have tissues nearby!).)  Gina's kids are not labeled as "special" because of their abilities, but they are just as special all the same.  So where am I going with this?

Sarah Kate & Lauren (© Gina)

Andi's daughter, Sarah Kate, has cerebral palsy (really, if you didn't go look at Andi's blog before, do it. Now. You need to.).  In the weeks before WDW Marathon Weekend, Gina's youngest daughter, Lauren, asked Sarah Kate if she would run the 400M Dash Kid's Race with her.  Sarah Kate said yes, and the two families feverishly started planning out their race day, including acquiring matching "Race You to the Castle" shirts for all the girls.  I had never attended the Kid's Races before, but had already been planning to go watch after we finished the 5K (Andi & her kids, by the way, had stationed themselves at the 5K finish line to chEAR - how awesome is that?).  Sadly, because of a traffic jam, I missed seeing Andi's son, Nathan, run his race, but arrived at the track just in time to meet up with my friend Katie in the bleachers near the finish line and hear them announce the last heat of the 400M.  Then, before I knew it, they were off and running (forgive the pun)!

Katie and I stood on our tiptoes on the bleachers trying to spot Andi & Gina on the other side of the track - knowing they'd be just behind the kids, and easier to spot.  Quickly the main herd arrived at the finish line, and watching all the kids finish the race was pretty cool - we cheered on the girl & boy winners, and the middle-of-the-pack-ers, and the stragglers, all the while waiting for Sarah Kate and Lauren to round the bend.  We knew they'd be last, and we knew they were still coming, but many of the spectators (and even the race announcers) didn't, so they started allowing people to cross the track, thinking the race was over.  Even the MarathonFoto photographer stationed on the track in front of us stood up!  NO!!!!  We had moved down to ground level at this point, so we got his attention and told him there were still two more coming in and he scrambled back into his spot - whew.  Finally, the race announcers realized that Sarah Kate and Lauren were still running their race and got the track cleared just in time for the two of them to enter the straightaway.

Going strong! (© Gina)
At this point, Katie and I were chEARing our hearts out for the girls as they steadily approached us - with Sarah Kate's slightly lilting gait proclaiming for anyone watching that there was something just the tiniest bit different about what these two were accomplishing.  And then, just as surely, the crowd picked up on it, and everyone started chEARing and clapping.  Truly the sidelines exploded with cheers of excitement and encouragement for "our" girls.  As they passed us, I screamed at the top of my lungs "GO SARAH KATE!  GO LAUREN!  Y'ALL ARE AWESOME!!!"  (I must digress for a moment and point out that Sarah Kate had never met me in person before, so at that moment, she turned her head and looked right at me with a very confused look on her face - trying to figure out who that crazy person was, I'm sure...lol.  I just waved and kept right on screaming...)  At this point, they were just yards away from the finish line, and as I looked right, I could see that Mickey had also figured out what was going on, and was waiting for them at the finish - just the two of them.

Sarah Kate had done it!  She'd pushed through those 400M on legs not as strong as the other kids', but with an inner strength and more heart and drive than you'd ever imagine in someone her size.  Andi told us later that she'd had to slow to a walk at one point, and she'd fallen several times on the back side of the loop, but she'd picked herself up and started running again with Lauren beside her. RUNNING again!  How great is that?  And there she was, literally feet from finishing a track race!  There wasn't a dry eye among the ROTE group, and I know for a fact that some of the other spectators - complete strangers - had tears on their cheeks.  It was an incredible moment to watch and experience.

At the Finish! (© RKP)
Now, just when you were thinking this couldn't get better, and that Sarah Kate's the lone heroine of the story, here's where things get really awesome.  Lauren had kept pace with Sarah Kate the whole race, slowing down when she did, stopping when she stumbled, and holding her hand for stability when needed.  But there, at that very last moment, Lauren let go of Sarah Kate's hand, slowed down even
Mickey Love! (© RKP)
more, and let Sarah Kate cross the finish line ahead of her, with arms raised above her head in triumph and ready to high-five Mickey Mouse.  Now, I don't know about you, but I'd say a decent percentage of kids her age would have shot forward there at the end to "win" and get some Mickey time, but not Lauren - she knew this was Sarah Kate's accomplishment and let her revel in it.  (Not that Lauren didn't get a little Mickey love, too, when she crossed a few seconds later.)  Talk about heart and intuition - what a great kid.

(I hope you read Andi's blog post about the race - she's got even more of the great post-finish pics there.)

Sarah Kate and Lauren finished dead last, and in true Disney fashion (as mentioned in the last post) they were treated with just as much - if not more - flourish and fanfare as the winning kids.  I love it.  I am so proud of both these wonderful girls (and love their parents even more for raising them to be who they are now) - and I can't wait to see what they will accomplish in the future.

Sarah Kate (© RKP)
All the girls (© Gina)

FINISHERS!     _____

At this point, I have no idea if either of the two girls realize just what kind of impact their race had on me, as well as, I'm sure, many others.  I don't know which of the two kids I'm more impressed and inspired by, and honestly, I'm not spending a lot of time trying to figure it out.  Both of them have such spirit and drive, as well as character and compassion.  They pushed themselves and each other to keep going and never give up.  That's a lesson we can all use to re-learn occasionally.

My own race that Sunday was a tough one, but with perseverance and the presence of friends - not unlike the example set by Sarah Kate and Lauren two days earlier - I finished.  I carried their spirit with me through all 26.2 of those hard miles - mostly subconsciously at the time, I'll admit, but looking back - I know they were there, pushing me to keep going, leading me to know I could lean on others when I needed to, and being there for others when they needed someone.  What more could a person ask for?  Though I wasn't dead last like Sarah Kate and Lauren, I wasn't far from it, but I still crossed that finish line with friends, proud of my accomplishment, and with my arms raised over my head in triumph, just like they did.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story - thank you for sharing it!