Many months ago I signed up for a special running event: Erica’s Wish. I love the spirit of this race, to me it is more about crossing the finish line, than winning. I love the charity purpose, I love the big heart feel.
Erica’s Wish offers a 1k, 5k, and 10k race in a beautiful park in Mississauga, Erindale Park. The run is intended to raise awareness of Osteosarcoma (cancer that Terry Fox had) and kids fighting cancer. Erica’s Wish is the creation of a beautiful 16 year old girl named Erica, who has survived Osteosarcoma. Erica, like Terry Fox, endured a long series of chemotherapy treatments and an amputation. The race is a response to her 13th birthday wish: “to raise awareness of kids with cancer”. I think it is an honour to be part of it.
While I run this race, I think about the odds, especially for those I know who face big odds against them. I run for all those who are facing something seemingly insurmountable. Most importantly I run for my autistic son N. I carry him, in my mind, so that he can do something he could never do it on his own. I think of each KM as a milestone, for both of us.
At 1KM I said to my son “N we are at the first marker and I am going to keep running for us”.
At 2KMs I said to him “N we have finished 1/5 of the race, and I am not tired yet.” And so, we run on, together using my body, enjoying together the sounds of the truculent river, and the forest cries of birds and cicadas.
At 3KMs, I say to N – “I am still strong, I feel good and I want to keep running, I will not give up”. We breathe the fragrance of the river, we inhale the scent of ferns and forest undergrowth. We absorbe the cool sensation of the tree canopy that shades us from above.
At just beyond 4KMs, just as the half way point approaches, we encounter a great hill, and I think – oh no… this is NOT possible! My legs slow down.
But they don’t stop. We don’t turn around, and we don’t back away. I attack the hill with all my purpose and will. I stride forward, not because I am a very good runner, not because I am particularly strong; but only because I think about N, and how must climb this hill every day, without anybody understanding, including himself. And then we are only just half way there!
My legs burnt from the climb, my lungs ached with each inbreath. My feet had been slowly swelling inside my running shoes. My right shoe had a small hole in it and suddenly it tore open so that there were two fat little toes peeking out. Only 3 months ago, I had seriously injured my left foot, and although I had not run much since, I decided to run this event anyway, but just take it really slowly. I was not prepared. While the injury did not seem to be bothersome, my ankle on that same foot protested ever so slightly, reminding me of the snap that I had felt only 3 months ago. “Breathe deeply and send the breath down, to the leg, to the injury” I concentrated. “Relax and slow down!” There was so much race left to go.
We passed the 6 KM post, then the 7KM. My legs began to feel heavy, I was feeling the weight of carrying N as my strength slowly slipped away, and as he grew heavier. I ran so slowly only Credit River remained beside me, like an anxious companion wondering if I could keep up.
8Kms and the forest above me, cool, leafy, and aloof, pretended that I did not matter. I could see nobody in front of me. I guessed everyone else had finished the race. But I kept running, albeit slowly, very slowly, putting one foot in front of the other. N was on my back, on my soul, on my very life itself, holding on because I was the only possible continuance.
At 9KMS I felt truly alone, I felt utterly spent and in pain, and the greenery had become lost in my own suffering. I could not carry N any more by myself. But who would help me to the finish line? Then I heard a voice behind me – “only 7 minutes left! Keep going, you can do 7 minutes” I turned and saw another person who, like me, could barely run the short distance, because of the burden carried. She was my inspiration to finish. I knew she was right.
I crossed the finish line and never saw her again after. Once I had crossed, once I had carried N all that way that seemed much too far, I turned around to watch her be victorious, but she was not there. Thank You, who every you are!
Small acts of love can carry us beyond our perceived limitations, to beyond our imaginations. Here’s to wishing that the world, beyond running, was able to give our autistic kids those acts of love, not contingent upon votes or personal gain, but just so that they could cross the finish line of their own capabilities.