Dad, when I run it feels like my disability disappears. – Rick Hoyt, tri-athlete and half of the inspirational Team Hoyt
The Wausau Half Marathon was one of those events for me this year.
I signed up for this race last fall and have been counting the days! This was the first time I was running this particular race, and I was running it with myTEAM Triumph. But more importantly, I was running it it with Captain Ashton! We have been friends with Ashton’s family for as long as I cam remember. John and Ken (Ashton’s dad) used to work together and, although they no longer work together, we have remained friends over the years. So, because of this, I have known Ashton for his entire life. Ashton is an amazing kid that loves playing Minecraft, spending time with this dogs Pepper and Cooper, Star Wars (that earns him bonus points in my book!) and driving his sisters crazy – just like any spunky 9 year old does. But there is one difference. Ashton was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Although he may not be able to run, climb and do things that most 9 year olds do, he don’t let that slow him down! He is you typical happy kid that just wants to go out and have fun. You can read more of Ashton’s story here, at Action4Ashton, a site maintained by Ashton’s mom Deanna, on their journey.
Last year, Ashton ran the Wausau Half Marathon with mTT and had a blast. As soon as I started looking at events for 2016, and knew that I wanted to add a few events in with mTT, I reached out to Deanna to see if Ashton was planning on doing this event again. Providing there were no setbacks with his health, he wanted to do it again. It was at that point that I told Deanna that I wanted to come over and run this event as one of Ashton’s angels. We started making plans for training and the ball was rolling! That was the start of something amazing!
With me living in Green Bay and Ashton’s family in the Wausau area, it made getting together for training runs difficult. I would have loved to have been able to make the trip over to Wausau for the Wednesday night training runs more often, but the logistics of it made it more difficult. But we worked with what we were given!
Finally, after months of waiting, miles of training and planning, race weekend was upon us! Joining Team Ashton for the Wausau Half Marathon was Tracy Major, who also lives in the Wausau area. This was her first half marathon with mTT and we were blessed to have her join our team! Tracy and I had similar running “style’s” and were ready to team up to make Ashton fly!
One thing that I will tell you, after all the races that I have run, race mornings with myTeam Triumph are completely different! There is just a different type of excitement in the air. Everyone is there for one reason – The Captains. This is their day. As an Angel, you are the wings to make your Captain fly. You are giving them the opportunity to do something that they probably never thought they would be able to do. That most would have thought impossible. But we are here to make the impossible a reality. Even the rain that blessed us that morning wasn’t able to dampen anyone’s spirits!
The hustle and bustle of race day with mTT is team effort and once again, before we knew it, we had 15 Captains ready to go! Those of us running the half marathon headed to the start line. The Full marathon started at 7am and we were starting at 7:10, about 10 minutes ahead of the rest of the half marathon runners.
This was what we had been training for all summer! Over the next 2.5 hours, we spent the morning cruising through the streets of downtown Wausau and the surrounding area. It had been several years since I had been downtown Wausau that it was interesting to see how things have changed over the years!
We learned quickly that Ashton doesn’t miss anything around him! He was pointing out stuff to us on the course that we would have probably missed! It was like seeing the race through the eyes of a 9 year old – which is completely different than what we see as adults!
Tracy and I knew that we were not going to be the fastest team of angels out there, and we were ok with that. This was about making sure Ashton had the best morning possible! And it was a huge learning experience for us! We didn’t even care that we were running in the rain! It’s just rain!
What did we learn? A little bit of everything!
Ashton LOVES to take pictures and videos! Before we headed to the start line, Deanna gave Ashtonhis camera, which was actually an iPhone, for him to capture his own memories of the morning! He started out by taking a video of us starting and then several more store videos along the way! He had to take a picture of each mile marker that we passed, as well as any other random race related sign along the course!
Minecraft is relative in ANY conversation! This kid loves Minecraft and it shows! I will be honest, I still have not clue about this game, but I am sure that I could sit down with Ashton and get a full tutorial on how to play and what is the best way to accomplish anything in the game!
Before we realized it, we were on our way UP the big hill!! The Wausau Marathon course does not disappoint when it comes to hills. Ok, maybe it’s just one hill, but it’s probably almost a mile long.. of which once you go up, you get to go right back down the other wide. There was no way we were runnign UP this hill! In fact, it took just about every thing that Tracy and I had to get our team up the hill. The downhill that followed felt great… until we remembered that, since this in an out and back course, we were going to have to go back UP this hill that we were currently enjoying going down.
That’s ok, we were up for the challenge! We were on our game and rolling along! Before we knew it, we were rounding the corner and heading up the hill to the next water station, and just beyond that, the turn around point! This mile, right in the middle of the course was filled with a large number of spectators for both the full and the half marathon (where we turned around for the half marathon, the full marathoner
s headed out for a few more miles before they too would turn around hand head back into town) The support for the mTT teams is definitely evident with the constant cheers and encouragement as we ran past.
After we passed the turn around point, I told Tracy and Ashton that we needed to make a pitstop at the 7 mile marker. It’s something that I will do during a half marathon, whenever I am able to… it’s the customary “selfie at 7”. Last summer when I was running a half in Minnesota, I ended up running with a gal from New Jersey. She told me that the “Selfie at 7” was something that she started doing during each half marathon to help remind her of how far she has come. When you reach mile 7, you can make a choice. You can keep going… or if you are tired, you can turn around and go back. It’s a simple reminder that when you stop and think about how far your have come, don’t quit. That finish line is closer than you think. It actually will take more time and effort to get back to where you started if you turn around and give up, than if you just keep pushing forward and head towards you goal! Ever since Tammi told me this, I try to make sure to get my own “Selfie at 7” whenever I can! This can translate to so many area of your life! So, just remember, keep moving forward!
The next thing we knew, we were rounding the corner to head back to the park, and the finish line! The finish line was in sight! This was an amazing feeling, knowing that we had given everything we had this morning to give Ashton the opportunity to complete his second half marathon!
The last 2.5 hours flew by! We laughed, we pushed ourselves, we developed some amazing bonds and created memories that will can never be replaced! Everyone that work so hard over the past several weeks and months to help make this morning happen deserve a huge hug!
Running across the finish line with Ashton was one of the most rewarding things ever! The pure joy on the Captain’s faces when that medal is placed around their neck is one of the best feelings ever! Ashton couldn’t stop talking about how cool his medal was and that he was going to keep it forever! Ashton was so happy that we ran with him today that he even said he was going to share his Free Root Beer Coupons with Tracy and I – he would get his own and Tracy and I could share the other one. 🙂 In the end, Tracy and I both said that we didn’t need the root beer and that he could have both if he wanted. Instead, he shared his coupons with his sisters! Best Kid ever!
After some celebrating at the finish line, I had the honor of spending the afternoon with Ashton and his family for a cookout and board games at their house. Perfect way to wrap up an awesome morning!
Being able to come together for such an amazing cause with this fabulous organization, makes all the training miles, workout and logistics to make it happen so worthwhile! People say that one day, one moment or one event can’t change your life. I want to challenge these people! I dare you to get involved with myTEAM Triumph, either as an athlete or a volunteer, and join them for one of their fabulous events. I dare you to not be changed. Each and every event that I do with this organization is a learning and growing opportunity that I am completely grateful for!
These Captains will change your life!