tri·umph [trahy-uhmf, -uhmf]
1. the act, fact, or condition of being victorious or triumphant; victory; conquest.
2. a significant success or noteworthy achievement; instance or occasion of victory.
3. exultation resulting from victory; joy over success.
...that about sums it up.
A few months ago when I learned about Rick and Dick Hoyt and MyTeam Triumph, all I had to do was watch the video and I was immediately inspired. When I decided to participate with our family and with Christian as a "Captain," I didn't quite know what I was getting us into. And my family, poor things, didn't really have a choice in the matter, but they were great sports about it!
As the race drew near, I still didn't quite understand it. In theory, yeah, that sounds really great and totally ambitious, but I had never done a 5K before, ever. I was a little intimidated.
Despite my intimidation, something kept pulling at me. I was drawn to the symbolism of what this race meant for my family running together. And not only together, but pushing along Christian, as well. He was going to participate in a race on his terms. And we were going to make that happen for him.
It all became real when we got our red MyTeam Triumph shirts and paper squares with numbers on them to pin to our shirts, you know, like real runners do. Even Christian got one!
We got up at 4:30 in the morning, tattooed with MyTeam Triumph emblems, wearing red, and somewhat ready to go. The race would start at 6:30AM.
We arrived on time and fitted Christian in his jogging stroller. Lola was going to ride along, too, in our other stroller. We also met two other "angels" that would be running with us, in case we needed a break from pushing Christian. When the time came, we headed toward the start line and gathered there - our sea of red - for the start of the race. The National Anthem was belted out over a beautiful, early fall, Tucson morning - the reason why we live here.
And we were off.
You know my plan was to just have fun. My plan was to run as much as I could, but to feel comfortable in the decision to walk if need be. But, surprisingly, we ran most of the way! I attribute that, in part, to our angels. One of them a particularly excellent motivator. I called her the Aerobics Instructor - you know, the kind that keeps saying, "Ten more! Ten more!" and it's really like 40 more? That was her. But she kept us going and it worked and she was way too jolly for 6:30 in the morning. Fun Fact: She actually turned out to be the daughter of Dr. Peters, the cranial sacral doctor we used to visit.
My one worry was that Christian would get upset mid-race and we'd have to stop. But he was a trooper and he motivated us to keep going. He tends to do that.
There were parts when Gabe needed to walk to rest his ankle and we walked with him and helped him catch up again. I needed to rest and Gabe saw me slow down so he slowed to wait for me. Manny kept pushing Christian. The "angels" were there to take over, but Manny wouldn't let him go. He wanted to push him all the way through. We got there as a team. As a family.
Toward the end of the race we had to run through a bumpy, grassy field. That was tough and we had to slow down because it shook Christian so much he voiced his complaints. But the finish line was only yards away at that point.
Then we heard the cheers.
We reached the pavement again and were met with people cheering and holding up signs in support of Christian and his friends. Typing this makes my eyes water because I can't describe what it felt like to run toward the finish line. I don't remember being tired or winded or needing to rest, as I'm sure I was all of those things. I just remember cheering.
Then I remember Manny saying, "Ready?"
I got goosebumps.
And we all crossed the finish line together.
After we crossed the finish line, we were all "belled" by Ben's Bells. Each one of us got a special bell and Christian and his friends got an extra special bell for inspiring us all to finish. Friends hugged us even though we were all drenched in sweat. Then we watched more friends crossing the finish line in their own triumphant moment.
We finished in forty minutes - five less than I originally predicted.
While I was running, I thought about what this all meant. It wasn't just keeping pace, the sound of my shoes hitting the ground, pushing Lola in front of me, Gabe right next to me and Manny ahead of me pushing Christian.
I started to think about our journey with Christian up to this point and how it eerily resembled this race. The beginning of the race started out fast paced and bumpy. It was a little messy and we had to figure out where exactly the path led us. There were parts of the race that were smooth and effortless just as there were areas that were inclined. Those were the tough parts. Those were the parts we had to dig deep inside and push through.
Toward the end we ran over bumpy terrain that was so tough to jog over, we had to slow down and walk to get through it. But just around the bend we heard cheering. And much like our journey with Christian, and anyone's journey in all walks of life, for that matter, we had to keep going, keep forging ahead. Sometimes it will be hard and difficult and you'll want to stop. But if you keep going the rewards will give you goosebumps. You'll cross the finish line and even get on the other side of it.
I promise you. It will feel amazing. And you will be triumphant.
All of our bells.