April 11, 2014

Race For Respect

Before the crack of dawn  March 30 th the van was on the road with 18 running shoes

1 pair of rain boots
and two buggies.  
 Before my first cup of coffee our gang
joined 500 other runners
 in our Nation's Capital
 to face freezing temperatures, rain, wind, snow and ice for the first annual Race For Respect.

Race day was quite an experience, and I will come back to it.  However, our journey to the capital was an even greater experience.   A journey which has made each of us better than we started out.    

Working through the trials makes us stronger for the race

Aedan and Ellie were absolutely amazing.  Both of them suffer from Asthma.  Anyone with breathing issues knows how hard it is to run with asthma.  And anyone with asthma knows how hard it is to breath in the freezing temperatures.  Aedan runs in warmer months but was taking this winter off per Allen's and my instructions.  When he got out there in February to train for this race he could barely make it up the first hill, which is about a 1/4 mile stretch from our house.  He pushed on and persevered without ever making a single complaint.  Our last training run before the race he ran with me and did 7 miles without hardly getting winded.  And he stayed well ahead of me the entire time.  

And Ellie... As we have been training and tracking our progress Allen diligently tacked a report for each of us on the fridge each Sunday.  As Elisabeth watched everyone else log miles, she decided to get in on the game.  Because of the cold she only had 6 days she was able to run at all.  She managed 5K on her second run with me.  It was not looking very good for her when she ran with me last.  The weather was cold and she was struggling considerably with breathing.  But she pushed on and finished 5K.  

When we push ourselves we might find we have more in us than we ever imagined 

Most kids who went to the race chose to run the kids 1K event, or to walk the course.  Judging by the crowd, I think Elisabeth might have been the only one in her age group to actually run the adult event.  Because of what happened, details to follow, Allen and I ended up separated from the rest of our family.  But I was told when Elisabeth crossed the finish line there was a chorus of cheers for our 417, who never faltered, even in the cold.  When we got the stats later, we learned she finished 91st out of 500 runners.  Not too shabby for an asthmatics first event and 7th run!  

When things become tedious, push ahead, the feeling of accomplishment is worth it

Nathaniel has a habit of starting something and not finishing it.  Last fall, Allen decided to use running as a way to work on this bit of character.  But then life turned very busy and it dropped off for December and January.  I am very proud of what Nathaniel showed in these 6 or 7 weeks of training.  There were two weeks where commitments and weather made it virtually impossible for the kids to get in all three runs.  We excused them from 2 runs during that time span.  But Nathaniel, made a point of doing extra runs in order to get in his equivalent of 3 per week.  One day he even went for a run with the girls and when he got back headed back out with me for another 4 miles.  Along the way, he has increased his speed considerably.  He might even be able to outrun Allen now.  I'd say he's learned to finish what he commits to, wouldn't you?

As for me, in the last few years the Lord has used running to teach me so many lessons.  And these few weeks was no exception.  You can read my story in For Henry.  

The steady engine encourages those around them

And what about Kaitlin and Emma?  They just plugged along as they always do.  Steady and sure.  That's my girls.

You might get more than you bargained for, but pushing forward builds character, (or at least makes you think twice next time)

When the race came up in February, it was Brianna who rallied everyone to get involved.  In an odd twist on Wachter world, it was yours truly trying to convince everyone not to run.  We told the kids in the beginning no one was required to sign up but if we paid their entry fee they had to run at least 3 days a week until race day.  Brianna had to really test her dedication.  While she was the one who started the ball rolling, she quickly realized she didn't want to go running in 18 inches of snow and rain.      

Even though the weather has not been favorable for running, as race day approached we consoled ourselves through snow and rain by the 10 day forecast of high 50's and sun to accompany our visit to DC.  My attitude quickly turned bad Thursday night when a Nor'easter blew in bringing with it three days of pouring down rain, cold temperatures, and some wind and ice to test our conviction and endurance.  By Saturday, no one was looking forward to the trip.  And Brianna, having had her wisdom teeth removed on Thursday, was looking forward to it even less than the rest of us.

I seriously can not tell you how many times Saturday (and at 5:30 Sunday morning) you could hear someone saying, "Who's bright idea was this, Brianna?"  Even our family mantra, "We're doing it for Henry,"  was little consolation. 

And yet, when we headed to bed around midnight on Saturday,  we found the boys were so excited they were still all wide awake.  

So we, along with a couple of friends, made our way into the city.  It poured like crazy until shortly before we got to the parking deck.  Allen said God must have been answering my prayers to stay the rain for the race as it turned to just a light drizzle.  We pinned on our bibs and tied our shoes wishing the opening ceremony would go a little quicker to stay ahead of the storms.

Family pushes through the trials and shouts the victory together

Initially, we had planned on having someone watch Carmella and Addison for the run.  But I was never really happy with that.  Because the thing is we do everything as a family.  That's our greatest strength.  And we decided to do this for Addison.  I just couldn't see running without Carmella and Henry.  A few days before the race I brought it up at dinner.  And everyone agreed.  I am glad we made the decision.  Even though it made things a lot more complicated.

It's amazing how many people and how much stuff you can fit into one van

I usually run while the little ones are napping or we divide up and some stay with the little guys while one group runs and then we swap.  I gave our running stroller away a few years ago to make room in the shed.  So problem number 1 was getting, not 1, but 2 buggies the week before the race.  Problem 2 was fitting two buggies in our van.  Fillmore may be huge but there is no room for anything but people with all the seats in.  Which we needed because of the extra people riding with us.

The back of the line isn't so bad if you are with the ones you love

Problem 3, which wasn't really a problem, was anyone with buggies had to go to the back of the line.  Which is sort of annoying if you are a faster runner.  And, we can make some time.  Most of us finished respectably, but we could have made much better time if we didn't have a crowd in front of us.  But that is the nature of the thing, and in this life I find it is better to run together than to finish first.

Our challenges, no matter how great, will never be as hard as the next guy

As we were getting ready in the days leading up to DC we did a lot of reflecting on those with DS.  Our hearts were particularly focused on our precious friend Madison, who had just gone through her 3rd open heart surgery.  Addison has been blessed with amazing health compared to the majority of the DS population.  But there are many out there who fight for their lives every single day.  And they are doing so in the face of a world which says their lives aren't worth the trouble or expense of living.  We decided we wanted to honor the Madison's of this world in the inaugural race.  Emma made an adorable banner and hung it on Addison's buggy.  The whole morning people kept saying "Hi" to "Madison" and then we had to explain who Madison was and how she couldn't be with us because she was recovering from surgery.  When they asked what our son's name was they seemed very confused when we said, "Addison" which sounds a lot like "Madison" in pouring down rain.

In every life a little rain must fall

The actual run itself went like this.  It poured down rain.  And at one point there was snow and ice mixed in.  For those of us moving, though.  It wasn't bad.  As I have mentioned before, where we train there are hills.  Nothing but hills.  Lots of them. And they are steep.  I have decided I really like running on flat city streets.  Even in the bad weather and even with the babies, I shaved almost three minutes off my mile.  And had it not been for what happened, I think I could have made it four quite easily.  I never even got winded.  In fact, everyone agreed this was the easiest run they had ever done.

Sometimes the unexpected happens

The plan was Allen would push one buggy and I would take the other.  However, when we were lining up Samuel asked if he could push Carmella.  I was thinking it might be tiring for him but we decided it would be good for Samuel to experience working harder for the sake of his sister.  Brianna was his running partner and said she could take over if it became too much for Sam.  Later Brianna reported back that Samuel pushed Carmella, without even flinching, until the finish line was in sight.  At which point the rain was pelting her right in the face and she started screaming.  Not crying, but screaming!  I wasn't with them to know exactly how the exchange took place but it ended up with a stranger, a poncho and Brianna taking Winnie to the finish line.    

And it usually turns out better than what we planned

Addison was going along and just loving the ride.  Because really there isn't anything Addison seems to ever dislike.  Actually, despite the rain in our faces, and the general nastiness of the conditions, we were enjoying the super easy run and seeing faces of friends along the course.  Until we turned a corner at the 1/2 way point.  As we turned the rain starting blowing right in Addison's face.  And after 11 months of gentle newborn cries, this guy found his voice.  He began to shout and scream and cry in a way we've never heard before.  We have worked so hard to teach Addison how to communicate and express himself that we were both excited to recognize this next level of communication and sorry to know he was so uncomfortable.  At first we turned the buggy backwards to get the rain out of his face.  Allen held one side and I took the other.  That worked well as far as the rain went, but it was tough to maneuver since the back wheels aren't made to rotate.

Our challenges push us to greater blessings

In the end, Allen took Addison out of the buggy and ran with him for a a mile and a half.  And, while running and carrying almost 20 pounds, is not an easy task, Allen said he was glad it worked out that way.  Actually, this was probably the greatest challenge, and the biggest blessing, of the day, and not just because this is the first time since Addison was born I've been able to outrun Allen.  In fact, I had to drop back repeatedly to keep pace with my men.

You might remember we ran this race to remind us of life's challenges for Addison and all those with Down Syndrome.  But running 5K is no challenge for Allen.  He runs more than that several times each week on very rugged terrain.  However, running in the adverse conditions while carrying Addison in his arms upped the ante.  It was a beautiful reminder of the challenges God has set before us through Addison's life.  My husband has given me a lifetime of moments where my heart swells at his goodness and I feel an overwhelming sense of pride in who he is.  His devotion to God.  His love for people.  His work ethic.  The way he provides.  His loyalty.  And the list goes on and on.  The love he has for his children is at the top of the list for sure.  And the way he guards and protects and loves and pushes Addison is something poetic you have to live to understand.  In the year since Addison's birth I often roll over at night and see my husband's face and I am left breathless as I contemplate the depth of love this man has for our son.  And yet, I have never had more admiration for him than I did in those moments when I looked up and saw him running with our baby gathered to himself in an attempt to comfort Addison and keep him warm and dry so they might finish the race together.

You can bet it made the race more difficult.  And you can bet it slowed us down considerably.  And I am sure people were wondering why we didn't just haul off into one of the public buildings along the way, as others with buggies had done.  But for me this was a picture of the beautiful journey God blessed us with the moment Addison was born.  Our son will likely always have to work longer and harder to do the things other people take for granted.  Allen and I are blessed to be the ones God chose to be his guides and advocates along the way.  And while we wouldn't change that for anything, we are learning a lot about how to slow down.  How to accomplish less.  How to be less.  We can never help Addison if we are running ahead to a place where he can't keep up with us.  Our whole lives Allen and I were the first in our classes, the best in our careers, and trailblazers in our parenting.  But now we are learning how to slow down to Addison's pace.  As we are learning to teach him and meet his needs, we are learning how to simply be less than we have been for our entire lives.  It is not a bad place, just something different.  We couldn't finish this race first, or even in the middle if Addison was to be with us.  In fact, we were in the 290's.  But we got to run the race with someone we think is pretty special.  That is an honor we would have missed out on if we were in the front of the crowd.

Of all the things we took away from the experience the greatest will always be this.  Sometimes there will be rain blowing in your face, and you will have to carry extra weight, and you may even end up way behind the pack.  In fact, you may end up finishing far behind everyone else.  But in the end the time it takes is not what counts.  The important matter is that we cross the finish line.

I am sorry to say it was raining so hard there are no pictures to be had.  I would love to have a photo of Allen and Addison together to paste in Addison's scrapbook.  Or a picture of our beautiful family huddled together in the pouring rain waiting for their brother when we finally got to the finish line.  Everyone else had cleared out quickly to drier and warmer spots.  But they weren't going anywhere until they cheered their Henry on.  That's what family is folks.  And that is why, no matter what he learns or where he goes, Addison is already a success in this world.  Because standing beside him in the storms of life are 8 amazing smiling faces encouraging him through every struggle and cheering him on to every victory.

 "... and let us run with patience the race which is set before us..."   Hebrews 12:1


  1. I am so proud of your entire family for participating in this amazing event! Each one of you showed your love for Addison and others with Down syndrome, through your time and commitment! You pushed through the challenges in weather just like Addison will push through any challenge he faces. He is so blessed to have the support of an amazing family. He was meant to be yours! We are blessed to know you and grateful for the support you have given Madison and our family! We are so thankful she was a part of this race with you. We love Addison and all of you so much.