Written by Mark Campbell, Tana’s son
On June 1, 2013, we lined up in the back of the running pack surrounded by family and friends. We all wore the same shirts. There were 13 of us (five running and eight cheerleading), all wearing a bright orange shirt with a while ribbon on the chest surrounded by the phrase, “Fight On and Find the Cure! Multiple Sclerosis!” Prominently displayed on the back of the shirt was the MSAA logo along with some other local sponsors. We were ready, nervous and excited. We saw glances from other runners and spectators. But they weren’t puzzled or condescending looks. They were looks of astonishment and admiration. This was our first hint of just the type of day we were destined to have.
The race started and we were the last of over 750 runners to cross the starting line. Spectators were lined up on both sides of the runner’s chute. We heard their clapping and cheering once they recognized what we were doing. We crested the top of a small hill, turned a corner and were out of the sight of our family and friends. We would see them a couple more times during the race as they drove to a strategic location where we would pass at 3.5 miles and again at 7.5 miles.
Over the course of the next three hours we ran mostly on the Capital Area Greenway which follows a creek. It’s a well maintained and beautiful place to be. It never occurred to me just how much my mother would enjoy being on the Greenway. She never knew it existed and with limited mobility (she told me afterward) she never would have considered the option of experiencing it. The Greenway winds along a secluded area away from the traffic and noise of the city. There are interesting sights, numerous footbridges to negotiate and gorgeous scenery along the way. It is also a heavily wooded area that created a canvas of shade and allowed mom to keep cool throughout the race.
As we encountered the water stops along the route we heard more cheers and kind words from the volunteers handing out water and electrolyte drinks. Our route was an out-and-back course, which meant that runners who were in front of us at the start of the race were now coming back toward us. Most of the runners had no idea that we were even participating in the race because they never saw us at the starting line. I cannot count the number of times these runners clapped, cheered, smiled, yelled, waved, pumped their fists, gave us high fives, etc. It seemed like everyone who saw us wanted to acknowledge our participation. I can only imagine what my mother goes through in her mind when she gets out of the house and other people see her at the store or doctor’s office or in a restaurant. But this day, my mother was a rock star! And everyone wanted to salute her.
As we crested the final hill and made the final turn, there was such a sense of accomplishment for both of us. Mine was a physical accomplishment. Yeah, I ran a half marathon while pushing my mother in a wheelchair. But more importantly to me, my mother’s accomplishment was mental. She showed herself and others that she can enjoy life and overcome challenges. After the race was over and we were hanging out with our friends and family at the finish line, I remembered what a friend of mine who also has MS once told me. She reminds herself daily that she has MS, but MS doesn’t have her. The same is true for my mother….MS doesn’t have her.
If this is the only time we ever participate in a race together then I am very happy and will cherish this memory forever. But something tells me that this won’t be the last time. If my mom wants to do it again next weekend I will be there for her….we may be just a little slower though and I’m sure that is alright for both of us.
(FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT: I did have to ask for help on that final hill from our running support team. It was a long, steep hill and my legs were exhausted. We estimate that they took turns pushing mom in her chair for about a half mile during the race.)