Adam brought me this Finish Line Magazine this morning and said, “Yes, yes, yes!” He completed his first 5k a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the encouragement of his speech therapist, Amy, who convinced me that Adam could in fact do it. And he did it, but there’s so much more to this story that I have to document because truly, it was one of the most emotional experiences I can remember in a very long time.So, Amy, Adam, me and Amy’s amazing son Steven, who also has autism and a fantastic kid named Daniel, also with autism, and a handful of others ran this 5k together. We were a unique little group, I tell ya’. The truth is that while this was a run to benefit individuals with autism in Northwest Arkansas, most of the participants were seasoned runners with crazy-muscular calves and awesome flourescent running shoes and tech shirts and the whole nine yards. Just like the peeps on the picture above. There was also a 1-mile fun-walk, which is where most of the families with children with autism participated. (Which is totally where Adam and I would have been if it were not for Amy.)
Amy, Adam, Steven and I stayed together the majority of the time. We tried to keep pace with Daniel but whenever he discovered that we were gaining on him, he turned up the pace like Speed Lightning and left us all in the dust! I was so engaged trying to keep Adam motivated for these three miles that I don’t think I realized how much our little group was standing out among the marathoners all around us (and very much ahead of us). Adam and Steven were troopers! Neither were trained runners. I don’t think either one of them completely understood exactly why they were being asked to run over three miles. But when we made it half way, we had a group of college kids cheering for us like they were at the super bowl when we passed.
So Amy and I kept it up with our boys (Daniel had completely blown us away at this point) by singing their favorite songs, holding their hands, switching boys hoping we would be more effective at motivating each other’s sons, etc. When we got to the last quarter mile, the large group of college-aged volunteers (who had apparently been watching us the entire time) approached us and asked if it would be okay if they crossed the finish line together with us. They told us that they had been inspired by Steven and and Adam and that it would mean a lot to them to cross with us. Steven and Adam – continuing to inspire and touch and motivate as they have their entire lives. I have to admit, it was the task of the century for me to hold the tears as these college kiddos asked to share in our experience. To top it off, at the finishing stretch, both sides of the road were lined with people cheering and shouting and encouraging. At this point, I think Adam and Steven were starting to enjoy the attention and feeling like the rock stars that they really are. And so we did it. Two completely out of shape moms, two sweet boys who trusted that they were asked to do this crazy task for a reason and a whole lot of amazing Northwest-Arkansanians who believed we could. And passing the finish line holding Steven and Adam’s hands was one of the most amazing and touching things I’ve done in my life. And based upon Adam bringing me the running magazine this morning with light in his eyes, it was meaningful for him too.