My Experience In a Virtual “Team” Race to Celebrate the ADA 30th Anniversary

Amy smiling and standing on path in park wearing her "Daring Sisters" turquoise t-shirt

Joining the Team

I love to run. In the summer I run at the high school track. The springy track surface makes the perfect running base for me. So I was excited when I found a notice on the “Daring Sisters” Facebook page recruiting for their team in a walk, run, wheelchair or bike event. The ‘team’ is a group of women with vision loss who  attend yearly retreats in Bountiful, Utah. Becky Andrews initiated this event to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the American Disabilities Act (ADA), as described her recent post.

I responded with, “Count me in! “I’ll take the t-shirt, too.” The shirt is a beautiful turquoise with the logo on the front right side. It has seven women in block figures in an open-ended circle – open to show inclusiveness. “Daring Sisters” appears in the center with a smaller half-circle of hearts printed in white. We all loved the design. I am wearing it in the picture at the top of this post and our group is shown in the picture below.

picture of Daring Steps team members with logo in the middle in shape of horseshoe made up of images of people holding hands. Has quote from shirt: “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our story, we get to write a brave new ending.” - Brene Brown. Picture created by Sarah McManick

Planning for the Run

I enjoyed meeting the others through Zoom and hearing their enthusiasm. We shared plans on how to participate in the event. Some ordered a special handmade teal tether for running with a partner (guide). I planned to run alone on the track.

While preparing for the 5K running laps at the track, I decided to challenge myself by running with a guide. It might help me run further and I would have to get in better shape. Could I do a marathon? Yes! I dared myself to be more courageous.

Virtual Race and Guide

Rachel, my niece, runs marathons and does triathlons. She ran a virtual race earlier this year and said it can be run anywhere at any agreed-on time. But the goal is fixed. My niece and her running buddy run much faster than I do. Rather than ask them to slow down to run with me, I decided to ask how to find a guide. They suggested recruiting through a local Facebook group since runners like to help each other.

Robin responded, saying she wasn’t “a runner” but was willing to help me. I wondered how we would do it since I had never run with a guide and she had never been a guide, or a runner. But I was excited, becoming more prepared each day with my workouts.

By the third time our team talked on Zoom, we were more united and even more enthusiastic. The team now had participants from Ohio to Oregon. Some planned to run the marathon; others the 5K. Some wanted to walk with babies, guide dogs or partners. We decided we would celebrate the ADA at our own pace in our own surroundings.

Becky instructed, “For the next week reply all and let us know when you’ll be running/walking/hiking/wheeling.” We agreed to send photographs and cheer each other on.

My 5K Virtual Race Experience

I waited too long to order a tether. That worked out since Robin and I were not experienced with tethers or the art of racing with guides. We agreed to walk locally in a park in Lake City. That would be more challenging for me since I was not familiar with the area, and I would need guidance.

Our walk took place in May. Just before entering the park, I saw Dairy Oasis, a Mom and Pop ice cream joint, and promised myself  a cone or hot fudge sundae afterwards.

Robin had planned the route in advance, to ensure it was 3.1 miles for a 5K. Robin told me she walked fast so I thought we were well-matched. But she meant like a deer flashing through the woods! To keep up, I had to speed walk. But I liked that challenge.

Robin verbally guided me to let cars pass and warned me to stay off the berm of the road to avoid falling. She noticed that I unconsciously “played with” my sunglasses. I had to wear sunglasses in the extreme sun to avoid stumbling in the bright light. But in the shade, I had to take them off to see where I was going. Robin kept me safe over the course of our two-hour hike. I had to really focus, so it was hard to talk at times.

When Robin took a break, I slowed my breathing and drank water from my thermos. The length of 3.1 miles was not unusual for me, especially in mid-summer, but focusing on the unfamiliar area wore me out. Nevertheless, I was glad I had challenged myself in a different way. My only regret was that the Dairy Oasis had closed at the busiest time of the day – 7 pm! So I forfeited my dream of a hot fudge sundae or a black raspberry & vanilla twist on a cone. Blah!

Team Camaraderie

I was touched the most by the enthusiastic emails adding a level of camaraderie and connection to my team. New emails arrived constantly from over forty-six states! I received notes like: “Happy Saturday My lovely Daring Sisters! On my way to San Diego Seaport Village boardwalk to complete my run!”; “I know you can do it”; “Take it easy”;  “Enjoy the journey of it all” and  “Yay! Go Sisters!” They sent wonderful picture descriptions, “…standing amongst jagged rocks. Semi-choppy water behind and a sail boat in the distance. the sun is making its final appearance as it sets for evening. Yet sky is still aglow!” They discussed surprises, “…found an amazing discovery. A heritage Giant Sequoia. Beautiful”; and revised plans, “We planned on a walk but we ended up on bikes with the grandkids!”

Staying in touch with other women facing similar challenges with vision loss reminds me we can be strong together, and the empowerment gained from connecting with peers helps to keep us positive and moving forward in life. 

I think this participant sums up what we all felt: “Daring Sisters, I am incredibly proud to be a part of this amazing team of sisters. I have loved all your photos & updates about your walks. You rock!”

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