Today I ran my first official road race -- finishing a 5K (3.1 miles) in Salem in just over 28 minutes.
The time, which was 4 minutes faster than last week's 5K cross country race, was good enough to earn me a third-place finish in my age group (but just shy of earning me one of the medals they gave out for first and second places).
I might be crazy, but I'm already thinking about other upcoming races I can enter. I can't ignore the voice inside me telling me I can do better. Seasoned runners warned me I'd get addicted. They were right.
But it's not just about running.
During this morning's race, I wondered how much money runners raise for various charities in a given running season? I bet it's a lot.
Even if they're not part of an organized fundraising effort like Team In Training, runners pay registration fees to be passed on to various charitiable organizations.
Today I did my part to help the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. Knowing that my money is going to a good cause (not to meniton it's productive part of my training), makes it easier to hand over the registration fee.
Although I'd like to say that I ran today's race because I was connected to the cause, I picked it more because of its mileage, location and date. But I was particularly glad to discover, after downloading the registration form, that my $18 would go to support autism research.
During the past two years, I've learned a lot more about autism than I ever thought I would. I've listened to how it affects not only the children affected by the disorder, but also the families that deal with the situation. I've learned first-hand through my volunteering at UpReach Therapeutic Riding Center how the disorder affects children in different ways.
As I ran today's race (wondering somewhere around Mile 2 why exactly I enjoy putting my body through this), I thought about the autistic children I've come to know through conversation -- and those I've worked with personally.
My thoughts turned to Sofya, the first student-rider assigned to me at UpReach. Looking at Sofya, you'd see a perfect little 8-year-old girl. She has long brown hair pulled up in a pony tail and brilliant blue eyes. Her outfits, even around the barn, were always perfectly color-coordinated. Her tiny fingernails usually were painted pink.
But just a few minutes into the lesson, it was evident that she wasn't like most 8-year-olds. Sofya would often look at you in the eye, but it was almost as if she was looking through you. It was as if she wanted to say something or wanted to communicate, but couldn't.
For an hour each week, we worked with Sofya to help her become more verbal. We took pride in her small victories -- saying the horse's name when prompted, trying to say the word "trot" or acknowledging a direction with a nod.
After remembering those little moments, somehow running that last mile didn't seem like such a challenge after all.
REMEMBER, I'M DOING THIS FOR A GOOD CAUSE.
Have you donated to my fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society? If not, please consider doing so. You can donate online at http://www.active.com/donate/tntma/Teresa. Please pass this link to everyone you know. Every dollar helps me get a little closer to the Disney 13.1!