Two short weeks from now, the finish line of the Thunder Road Half Marathon will be behind me. After five months of training and countless lessons about my sister’s dark world, it’s hard to believe that it’s almost here – and that once we cross the first timing mat, the journey of a lifetime will be complete in about two hours’ time.
We’ve gotten some great media coverage and have more on the way. If you live in N.C., pick up a copy of the November issue of Endurance Magazine. Taylor’s amazing story of courage on the race course made the cover! Click here for a note from the editor about the article. The South Charlotte Weekly ran a nice article a few weeks ago. The Charlotte Observer will print a story about our upcoming race tomorrow. We have more TV coverage on the way as well.
Wednesday night just before 10:30, Andrew and I embarked on a 4.11-mile run on the twisty streets of our neighborhood. Encumbered by the cul-de-sacs, speed bumps and rumble strips that have accompanied so many of our training runs, we checked in at a 9:43/mile pace. When my friend and guide dropped me off at my mailbox at the end of the run, I didn’t have a scratch on me and had two healthy ankles – both good signs. I haven’t fallen since my crash landing in mid-August – still my only accident throughout five months of training for Thunder Road. But as I read and reread the stats for our run, I knew I wanted to get FASTER.
This morning, Andrew and I headed to an office park area south of our neighborhood – the site of my longest blindfolded run to date – for just our second daytime run. I strapped on my new Camelbak water bladder pack; crowded water stations aren’t the place for a blindfolded runner, and the pack is a great solution for my hydration needs and all of the other random things I need for a long run (license, health insurance card, Shot BLOKS, etc.).
I wanted to run 10 miles today. The last time we went to the office park, we ran up and down one road that has light traffic on Saturday mornings, hills to train for Thunder Road (not known for being flat) and a chance to practice our turns. Andrew asked me if I thought I’d get bored running the same stretch for 10 miles, to which I responded, “It makes no difference to me!” After all, when you’re blind, the scenery’s all the same.
Running in a dark world as the fog lifted to reveal a bright, sunny day in Charlotte, I could have let my imagination take me wherever I wanted to go. But I stayed grounded, both for safety and to remember every moment of what may have been the last time I put on a blindfold before race day. I felt the sensation of cars as they passed, even though they moved to the center lane to give us room (we didn’t have any encounters like the first time we ran on that road, when a driver in a Porsche flew by and scared me so badly that I jumped into Andrew and almost knocked him over). I felt the “corrugated” texture of the bridge of the interstate beneath us and asked my guide to help me avoid the painted white lines on the road, because they felt slick.
I also heard the voices of other walkers and runners. Andrew narrated their reactions to the crazy blindfolded girl wearing a purple backpack, most of which began as shock, then changed to slow recognition and finally a big grin and, sometimes, a thumbs up or a wave. We stopped to talk to two of the runners, one of whom teaches at The Fletcher School, the school Taylor attended for six years. I didn’t realize until later that without even thinking about it, I removed my blindfold long enough to say hello – which Taylor couldn’t have done. It felt like the polite thing to do, but when I pull that blindfold over my eyes, I really do want to blind myself – to experience my sister’s world and to remove all of the privileges that come with being sighted. I don’t intend to take off the blindfold at any point during the race. I’ve solved the water station issue, but more recently, I’ve thought about awkward things like restroom breaks, and whether or not I can skip them for 13.1 miles. I can hold it for 10. I think I’ll just force myself to hold it for 13.1.
Andrew and I reached our goal, after all. We logged 10 miles, my longest blindfolded run by far. We hit about an 8:45/mile pace, good for 1:27:42 even with a couple of stops for SHOT Bloks and the quick visit with Andrew’s friend from Fletcher. My PR for ANY 10-mile run is 1:20, set at the Tar Heel 10 Miler this April. So I feel great about what we accomplished this morning!
I’ll share a secret with you, too: for a brief period of time during today’s run, Andrew cut me loose. I ran down the center of the quiet street, the bungee cord that is my lifeline coiled up in my left hand, my guide just a few steps away. I picked up my speed, and I felt free as a bird. During those fleeting moments, I felt my sister’s presence. And I didn’t fall.
I will run the Thunder Road Half Marathon blindfolded to support gene therapy co-funded by Taylor’s Tale at the University of North Carolina Gene Therapy Center. Donations to this cause are 100 percent tax-deductible. To support my run and our fight to develop treatments for Batten disease and other genetic diseases, click here.
Join the Taylor’s Tale team and help us turn Thunder Road purple for Taylor! Click here to register for the marathon, half marathon or 5K. On the second page of registration, under “Event Groups/Teams,” select “Taylor’s Tale” from the list under “Choose an Existing Group.” Wear purple and run for us to help raise awareness on race day. If you’d rather cheer, stay tuned for details about the official Taylor’s Tale cheer station on the course! Contact me with any Thunder Road-related questions.