Running Charlotte’s Thunder Road Half Marathon blindfolded last year was a surreal experience. With the help of my guide, Andrew, and countless other supporters, we accomplished every goal we set out to achieve.
The story didn’t end when we crossed the finish line, and while I’ll run Thunder Road sighted this year as a quick detour from my quest to race for Taylor in all 50 states, a group of teens especially close to my heart has something incredible planned for Charlotte’s largest road race.
Playing for Others is a teen organization focused on personal development, service and the arts. Taylor’s Tale was one of its chosen charities last year, and Taylor participated in its buddy program. Her “buddy,” Nicole, now a freshman in college, is a friend for life.
If you went to Thunder Road last year or saw any of the photos or many news stories on our effort, you may remember these amazing kids. About 70 of them wore purple tutus, sparkle and glitter. They wielded signs and pompoms and packed into our official cheer station at the race’s final turn. When we passed the station, all 70 of them took off after us in an unscripted, spontaneous, gorgeous burst of emotion. And when I took off the blindfold after crossing the finish line and hugged my mom, they surrounded us – and didn’t leave. It was like the end of a Disney movie, and I half expected them to carry us out on their shoulders. It was beautiful and exciting and not cheesy at all.
Playing for Others is supporting a new cast of deserving charities this year, and Taylor is no longer in the buddy program. Many of the kids in that crowd on race day graduated and went off to college. But Playing for Others hasn’t forgotten about Taylor’s Tale, and they’re creating their own version of the blindfolded run at this year’s Thunder Road 5K.
What do the kids have in store for this year’s race?
Teens have signed up to run/walk the 5K tethered to parents. The teens will be sighted; the parents will be blindfolded. Anyone not running will paint the sidelines purple with specially created t-shirts and encourage runners with their tireless spirit.
I went to the group’s first practice this past Sunday. Some of the kids and their parents are runners; some of them have never run a race. But that’s not what’s important. I remember well how Taylor was not a “runner” when she signed up for Girls on the Run in the fall of 2008. Yet she overcame blindness and the effects of Batten disease to run not one, but two 5Ks tethered to a guide. This is not about physical gifts – it’s about sheer will. And Taylor always had that in spades.
Please be on the lookout for these amazing ambassadors for Taylor’s Tale at Thunder Road on Saturday, November 15. Thank them for their amazing dedication to people like Taylor and for taking on such a remarkable personal challenge. I understand what it’s like to learn to run blind – I’ve been there. But I believe they’ve got what it takes.
On another note, if you’re planning to run the Thunder Road 5K, half marathon or full marathon, please consider running for our Taylor’s Tale team. Simply select “Taylor’s Tale” as your team when you register on the race website and wear purple on race day. Let’s paint Thunder Road purple again for the fight against rare diseases!