The Triple Crown and the Wheelchair Race

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Horses are magnificent animals.

The world is congratulating American Pharoah and his longed for Triple Crown victory, a celebration of highest respect and joy for being the one who has brought release and relief from the seemingly endless wait. With a combination of exquisite grace and strength, and so much more, he has earned all the accolades.

The race made me remember Barbaro, a hopeful for such a victory and the courageous battle he fought after being injured. I lived not far from where he as being treated so the local news was filled with stories of this brave creature. I remember tears as I read the descriptions of his treatment, his cooperation and grit, the high and hopeful anticipation of full recovery and the disappointment and ultimate grief when he lost the battle. He was a racehorse every single day in the highest meaning of the role.

American Pharoah and Barbaro.

Both courageous.

Both loved.

Both revered.

Both honored.

One captured the crown.

One that trained equally hard for that prestigious honor and was felled by injury but kept fighting for his life, whatever his place would become, and captured his own crown for giving it his all in the fight, modeling a spirit that also touched the world.

Interestingly, during this season of prominent horse races, I have been thinking about a race that is much closer to where I live. I am fascinated that for whatever reason it came into my heart and mind during these same days.

It is a race that completely beckons me and pulls me in.

It is a race that gets me out of bed extra early with excitement, joy and anticipation.

I dress with energy and delight at the thought of cheering loudly.

A deep sense of knowing that I will be restored, inspired, refreshed and touched to my core during a matter of minutes permeates my whole being…and yes, moved to tears every single time.

It is the wheelchair race that kicks off the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta each July 4.

Perhaps at one time the wheelchair race participants ran from starting blocks in track clubs, running laps competing for the win. Perhaps they trained tirelessly for the celebrations of life, each one individual in whatever the endeavor. Perhaps they had the same anticipation of rounding the final turn with joy, even if not in first place. Perhaps they were still in the endurance training part, the race still to come.

Until life interrupted.

Until, like Barbaro, a severe injury took them out of the life they knew and the celebrations they were pursuing…a whole new level of race created.

For some, life in a wheelchair has been their inheritance since birth.

The wheelchair racers, men and women with a stellar vision and mission, are “Triple Crown” qualified and more. Their strength, beauty of rhythm, glow of the sweat, determination in expressions, smiles, courage, extreme discipline, desire to win, and unwavering focus are qualities I never tire of witnessing.

As they speed by each year, I drink in those moments and can only hope that in some magical way some of their spirit flies to me so that when I give in, let down, lapse into total laziness, or think “I can’t” I will bring them to mind.

As I cheer, a small voice of the thousands who honor them along the route, I feel I am on the receiving end of the way in which they embrace and model myriad levels of “going for the gold” and take the race to the highest level possible. As I observe the challenge of the first two miles showing when they pass my spot, I know there will be no giving up…no giving up…when they reach Cardiac Hill and push past The Shepherd Center, inspiring others to believe they, too, will participate in this race someday. It’s almost as if the most grueling part of the race on that hill is meant to show all who see it that there is victory over limitations, however small or however big. Then the downhill and flatter part that ushers them to victory are ahead.

This musing is not about having the legs to run or not, though I do want to honor Barbaro, how he endured his injuries, and the wheelchair racers as highly as those who are seemingly without what we consider physical limitations and who remain in the limelight, lest we ever forget.

It is an illustration of the magnificence of human and animal and that I am beautifully challenged to continue facing into my own races in life with the same perseverance and grace

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