Why do we do what we do? I guess I really should say, “Why I do what I do?” I can’t speak for Amanda and she can’t explain it to you in words.
First off, let me tell you a little bit about Amanda. She is our middle child and she was born in 1985 with cerebral palsy that affects her speech (she’s essentially non-verbal) and muscle control. She is pretty much confined to her wheelchair and has to have constant care. Amanda is also developmentally challenged, but she seems to be unaware she’s handicapped and she behaves like a happy, mischievous little kid.
I run, because I like the personal challenge of racing, the camaraderie of fellow runners and the feeling of movement that it brings. It’s a liberation of body, mind and spirit that makes me feel better about myself and those around me. It gives me a chance to be both student and teacher, to motivate and be motivated by other athletes. I run because I enjoy it. I’m not terribly fast, but then running for most of us is more than just about finishing first.
Why do I run with Amanda? I do it because I like doing things with my children and running is something that I can share with her. I do not feel that I’m doing anything special at all. For me, it’s really not a big deal, it’s just time spent with my family.
We have three children, my son Adam is the oldest, Amanda is next and Lauren the youngest. I have tried to make time to do the *dad* thing with my kids by spending some personal one-on-one time with each of them.
When Adam was small, I volunteered as a scout leader in his scout troop. We did back woods camping in Algonquin Park and played computer games together. When he was older I signed us both up for Tae Kwon-do classes and we did the Paris to Ancaster Bike race one year. With my youngest daughter Lauren it’s pretty much the same thing, we ride bikes, play computer games, perform songs at local open stages, attend Anime Conventions and paddle in provincial parks on our yearly canoe trip.
Parents have done or are doing the exact same thing with their children in hockey arena’s and soccer fields, craft classes and music lessons all over the world. We all enjoy spending time and doing things with our kids, that’s one of the reasons we have families, and why should Amanda be treated differently than any other family member just because she has a few more challenges in life than most? The only real difference I can see is that Amanda needs a little more help to participate in those activities than Adam or Lauren did.
When I found out that Amanda likes to go running, it gave me an activity that we could both enjoy together. She gets out of her wheelchair for a while and enjoys the sun and fresh air, the attention of others and ice cream after our usual Wednesday night summer runs and I get to spend some solo time with my middle daughter.
Amanda likes to go running, but she likes to go racing even more. If racing solo, I can’t let her see me wearing the running club singlet, because she gets upset if she thinks I’m going without her. She is generally pretty quiet on the road, she’s overloaded with stimuli, but at home before the run, it’s a sing-song chorus of “DA-AD!”, tap-tap-taping on her wrist (“Is it time to go?”) and squeals of excitement when she sees her racing chair. You wouldn’t have to ask if she liked running if you saw her then.
I’m not looking for attention, fame or fortune. Neither are we a side show for people to gawk at or feel sorry for. None of this is our style. There are other reasons for running together, like raising the visibility of the handicapped in our community and bringing attention to their inclusion into every day activities, but these aren’t the real reasons we do it. I run with Amanda for only two reasons. First and foremost we run together because Amanda enjoys it and secondly, I run with her because I can. I’d like to say there was a higher ideal or something nobler that motivates me, but I’d be lying to you if I did. It really is nothing all that extraordinary.
I do know that even if Amanda isn’t telling her side of the story with words that she can’t express, her smile, her eyes and her reactions speak more than loud enough. If you asked and she could talk, I think she would tell you that she runs with her dad simply because it’s fun.
By Mark G. Collis
June 4, 2006