The Real Heroes

By Laura Edwards
Taylor's 5K finish

Taylor finished the 5K race at Thunder Road in 2008 guided by two angels and the wings of her own courage.

Three weeks from today, I’ll run the biggest race of my life. I’ve run Charlotte’s Thunder Road Half Marathon three times since 2009, but on Saturday, Nov. 16, I’ll run it blindfolded.

Late Wednesday night, I went out for training run number 16 with my pinch runner – my husband, John. The temperature dipped below 50 degrees for the first time this autumn. I left my black tights at home to make myself more visible to passing cars, and though I didn’t see the goosebumps on my legs, I felt them. I called out manholes and irregularities in the road to my inexperienced pinch runner – not the other way around – but I stayed on my feet and didn’t suffer any sprained ankles throughout 2.18 slow miles.

As much as I love my husband and appreciate his willingness to take me out for a run at 10:15 on a weeknight, I can’t wait to get back on the road with my friend, Andrew Swistak, a seasoned runner born to lead the blind(folded). I feel safe when Andrew’s on the other end of the bungee cord, even though I had a crash landing on one of our training runs back in July. With my friend’s coaching in my first race of 2013, I conquered a nasty hill at mile eight, found energy I didn’t know I had at mile nine and set a new personal record (PR) for 10 miles. With Andrew’s help, I believe I can run not only a safe race, but a FAST race for Taylor at Thunder Road in three weeks.

But this isn’t about me, and it’s never been about me. So more than a fast time or an injury-free race, I’m hoping for this: that my 15-year-old sister, who’s had a rough few months in her fight against infantile Batten disease, will be well enough to come to the finish line. I want her to be the first person I see when I take off my blindfold. I want her to be there so I can give her a sweaty hug and tell her how much I love her, even though she can’t say “I love you” back.

Because the battle Taylor fights every day is a thousand times tougher than running a race in the dark. 

Helen Keller quote

I’ve spent hours blindfolded, but I’ve never been blind. I’ve vowed not to remove my blindfold at any point during Thunder Road, but if I wanted to see the endless sky above my head and the pavement beneath my feet and the bare November branches and the crowds lining the streets, I could do so.

I’ve never been blind, but I think that perhaps losing sight of the real purpose is the worst kind of blindness.

Taylor, and the several thousand others living with Batten disease, and the millions of people worldwide facing a rare disease without a single approved treatment or cure, are the real heroes. 

The moment I forget that – the moment I make the story about myself – I’ve lost my way, and even Andrew won’t be able to lead me back.

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! 

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