NRL News

A magnificent triumph of the human spirit

by | Mar 8, 2018

By Dave Andrusko

My oldest daughter runs…and runs…and runs. A while back (probably eyeballing my rapidly aging torso), Emily decided that we ought to run a Father’s Day race together. Instead of her usual half (or full) marathon, she helped me finish my first 5K.

Since then I’ve run four or five 5Ks. This Saturday Emily will run another half-marathon and I will labor through another 3.1 miles (which is what a 5K is).

Every time we approach another race, I think of a Sunday morning when my wife and I took Emily to a local airport where runners would run on a totally flat surface. It’s an event I have written about before. But what happened that day is worth recalling.

We got up at 4:45 to take her to compete in a short race (by her standards) of six miles. Beautiful day, up to a thousand runners, nice background music–couldn’t ask for more.

Lisa and I stood about 10 ten feet away from the finish line. Having not seen Emily complete most of her previous races (there can be a lot of people bunched together), we were bound and determined this time to actually see our first daughter complete her six miles and give her a high-five. Oh, by the way, Emily teaches vocational skills (“life skills”) to adolescents with special needs.

As we waited for Emily, members of the group that were running 3 miles began to cross the finish line, one by one, including a mom pushing a double stroller with two little kids in tow.

And then…one of those moments you don’t forget.

A guy, I’m guessing in his late thirties, finished unnoticed, as far as I could tell. He was pushing an adult-size stroller.

For a moment, I thought it was another double stroller. Looking online afterwards, I’m guessing it was a variation of what is called an “advance mobility freedom push chair.”

His compatriot in the race was a young man, probably in his late teens. He was safe and secure and warm, bundled up under a kind of protective tarp, his face beaming pure joy as they completed the race.

This special young man had a special need. His dad, his brother, his friend–whoever it was that pushed him around the small tarmac where the race took place–unceremoniously kissed him on the forehead and placed the medal they’d received for finishing the race around his neck.

I’m guessing that many of our readers have seen the “Team Hoyt” video to which people have added as background music, “I can only imagine” by Mercy Me. For those who haven’t, what is Team Hoyt?

It began, according to Jacqueline Mitchell

in 1977, when 15-year-old Rick, who was paralyzed at birth due to oxygen deprivation, told his dad he wanted to participate in a 5-mile run to benefit a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed.

Since then, Dick and Rick completed thousands of marathons and triathlons, including six Ironman competitions—that’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, followed by the 26.2-mile marathon.

I cry from beginning to end every time I watch the Team Hoyt video. The final scene, when they cross the finish line, leaves me bawling like a baby.

As best I can tell, nobody was there at our little local airport (which closed down for a couple of hours to allow the race), with camera in hand, ready to take pictures and maybe write a story about this small but important triumph of the human spirit. I’m sure the man was not looking for publicity. He was just doing the right thing.

But I was there. And I was blessed. And so I wrote this story.

Categories: Life