Running for Inclusion

The independence to pick your favorite running top and throw it on.  The ability to grab your shoes and head out the door.  The feeling of the pavement beneath your feet.  The freedom to run.

 

All of these are things we runners often take for granted.  Instead we grumble about the early alarm, the weather, the missing sock, the GPS watch we forgot to charge… sometimes overlooking the simple feat that is being able to run on one’s own schedule, under our own power and two feet.

 

This past weekend Maui Running Company had the pure joy and honor of running a local 5k with Ainsley’s Angels in Hawaii.  Ainsley’s Angels is a national organization whose mission is to educate, advocate and celebrate people with disabilities.  The primary purpose is for inclusion; to have Maui’s special needs community participating in races and feeling like they belong.  Like they can sign up and be at a local run just like any other runner.

This was my second opportunity to run with the Maui team and it was every bit as special as the first.  Athlete Riders are paired up to be pushed by Angel Runners.  I was happy to get to push with one of my friends Nick to run with Nadia.  Nadia is an regular athlete and  Pattie, the incredible Ainsley’s Angels of Hawaii coordinator, told us that she was excited to get to “run fast” with Nick and I.  We were one of 7 teams running strong on Saturday.  After our group picture we all lined up and were given a minute head start.  The Athlete Riders especially love to be able to start at the front of the race, as they are often left in the background of events and in crowds.

 

For anyone who’s ever run with a baby in a stroller, running with an Athlete Rider is even more challenging.  Angel Runners are paired up to share the load and trade off every mile or so.  The goal is for everyone on the team to have fun and enjoy the experience.  The squeals and laughter that we could hear from other Athlete Riders on the course was a sure sign that we all accomplished that goal!  Rounding the last corner and making our way to the finish line, the clapping and cheers coming from the volunteers and supporters and joy on Nadia’s face capped off a fun run.

 

While Pattie and her team make it look seamless, races with Ainsley’s Angels is a lot of work.  From securing racing chairs, raising money so the families who can’t afford entrance fees can also participate, picking up participants who live in group homes or with families that can’t provide transportation to and from races, and then the race itself… none of this could happen without countless volunteers.  To see Angel Riders with smiles plastered across their faces the entire time, feeling the wind in their faces, making new friends and getting finishers medals like any other runner makes the work worth it.

 

If you’re a Maui resident or frequent visitor and would like to learn more, check out their Facebook page or email hawaii@ainsleysangels.org.  Or visit https://ainsleysangels.org/ambassadors/ to find a group in your area.  You can also checkout our Race Calendar for upcoming opportunities to run with AA in Hawaii.  I look forward to my next opportunity to be an Angel Runner and help to build a community of inclusion for runners of all abilities.  We are spreading aloha one mile at a time and invite you to help us reach this goal!