Our trip to Disney had a secondary purpose: for me to run the Minnie Marathon 15K with friends, and for Sarah Kate to try out a shorter kids’ race. There are several kids’ races at Disney, ranging from 800 meters down to a Diaper Dash. Sarah Kate was signed up for the 200 meter race. She wore her “Girl Power” T-shirt from her two previous races, a brand new “running skirt” (made with love by Nana), and her new “Rockstar” Bondi-Band. At the end of the 15K, her entourage, which numbered in the double digits, made our way over to the 200-meter start line. We snapped a couple of photos and then Sarah Kate and I headed to the back of the pack so as to avoid a nasty spill at the start.
At the back of pack, we made some new friends. Another little girl, soon to be introduced as Natalie, and her mother, Karen, were waiting there and I could immediately see that Natalie also had cerebral palsy. I was so happy to see them! It’s tough for your kid to not only be last, but to not even be within sight of the rest of field, and we quickly bonded over our shared experiences. Natalie had previously run one other children’s race, and told Sarah Kate and I that her goal was to “finish strong.” I thought that sounded like a great goal to have, and we adopted it, as well.
When the race started, Sarah Kate took off at her awkward but beautiful pace. I walked just behind her to provide encouragement. It only took a few seconds for the rest of the field to round the corner out of sight, but Sarah Kate and Natalie pressed onward. Quite a few folks were still hanging around, and there were lots of cheers from the crowd. Our cheering section now combined with Natalie’s, and the two girls had a tremendous amount of support. Even strangers, not knowing us, called encouragement (“Go 396!!!”) Sarah Kate rounded the corner just ahead of Natalie, and the finish line was in now in sight (the same finish line that I had crossed earlier in the 15K).
About midway down the home stretch, Sarah Kate fell. I wasn’t able to catch her, but I picked her up and encouraged her to “shake it off” and keep going. She never hesitated. By this point she had realized that she was actually ahead of Natalie, and she dug deep for the final push. Her face held a look of grim determination. I pointed at both race photographers and made sure they knew that I WANTED HER PICTURE. She crossed the finish line with a huge grin and exclaimed joyously, “Momma, I beat that girl!!!”
My friend Kim was laughing while tears streamed down her face, and Natalie’s grandmother had a similar reaction. I know how they felt, because I did the same thing back in November at the first race. Sarah Kate got her medal and we turned to congratulate Natalie as the combined throng of fans of the two girls came over. Karen and I talked about how wonderful it was to have the girls race together – the competition encouraged both of them to push just a little bit harder. After a shower and a little rest time back at the hotel, Sarah Kate and I proudly donned our race shirts and our medals and headed for the Magic Kingdom.
It was a magical day, and we finished strong.