Not very long ago I posted this blog post – It was bragging about my Jack, the child I run for. My little pen pal, my inspiration, and a big reason why I keep putting one foot in front of the other.
It was shared in an effort to get more parents to sign their children up for runners. There are THOUSANDS of runners waiting. The wait list is long, with runners now waiting up to 6 months for their inspiration. I still say, do it… do it ASAP, my running life will forever be impacted because I am a runner through this organization.
I spoke of Jack, my 9 year old friend. I spoke of how I always thought of him and his family. I talked about how I think of him, in his wheelchair, when mile after mile – negative thoughts got into my head. I push them away. Jack pushes them away for me. He leads the way.
Unfortunately, I am heart-broken to share that Jack finished his race before I did. He passed away, on December 16th, 2014. He won though, because his life was filled with triumphs, beating the odds, and being braver than I could ever possibly be. He was happy, he had a good life, even though 9 years was far too short. He had a great family, and saw many things. And now he sees them all from above.
His family loves Disney and they visited Disney World frequently. His mom said he loved it there. So it was fitting that I was planning to accomplish the race of my life at Disney World a week ago. I was running the marathon there. My first, and most likely my last, marathon would take me (with Jack on my back) through all three Disney parks as well as the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
While running several miles into the 26.2 I had before me, the sun had come up but was still hidden by the trees in the protected land where we were running. I saw a huge bird flying over-head up ahead of us. It was soaring high above the trees, coasting along. It was a gorgeous brown eagle. I have always thought these bird as amazing, they are just so huge – majestic! And they glide effortlessly along, far from what I was doing at the moment as I put one foot in front of the other, knowing I wasn’t even half way and I had so far to go. He flew out of sight until shortly after when we rounded another corner. There he was again, soaring high above us.
I smiled when I saw him again. He was giving me wings. Something Jack’s mom and I had kid about prior to me leaving. I told her I was going to need to borrow those angel wings!
Several minutes after spotting that eagle I saw another! People slowed, pointing it out to their friends, it was so low! How lucky are we! To be seeing these magnificent birds flying above our heads! As it swooped down right above our heads and flew right up into a tree, I could easily see that this one was a bald eagle. How beautiful! How lucky! Not one, but two eagles, and so close! I took it as a sign that I was getting those wings I knew I needed.
And I ran, and ran, and I finished that race, I ran the furthest I have ever run before. There were times I thought I couldn’t run any more. There were times I was convinced I was going to walk the many miles ahead of me. But I pulled through after short breaks to keep running. Because I was running for Jack. Because Jack was giving me wings.
After the race I asked my friends if they saw all of the eagles flying over-head and I described the area where I had seen them. Not a single friend saw one.
Once I got home I recanted the story of the soaring eagles over-head. I told him mom I was grateful for the inspiration and I was sure these eagles were a sign that Jack was with me.
That’s when she told me that a song at his funeral was “On Eagle’s Wings”. If I had any doubt before, they were gone now. We knew Jack was with me, he and I were seeing the sights of Disney together. What a gift.
If you haven’t already, visit www.whoirun4.com and sign up your special needs child and their siblings for runners. It’s a great way to spread awareness and have some fun along the way. And as I can attest, as much as it will end up meaning to your family, it means even more to your runner.
Soaring eagle image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net