I am so excited that in less than two months, CCVI will be welcoming seven incredible elite athletes with the United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA) to run in the Trolley Run. What makes me especially happy is that four of these athletes – Heather, Lex, Markeith, and Aaron – ran the Trolley Run last year and are returning because they had such a great time. And I can’t wait to welcome our new athletes – Amy, Richard and Michael. Please click HERE to read all about these truly phenomenal athletes and inspiring individuals.
In November 2013, I attended a vision conference and randomly sat next to Mark Lucas, Executive Director of USABA, on a bus to a meeting one morning, and then sat next to Ryan Ortiz, USABA Assistant Executive Director, on a bus to dinner that same night. We all agreed the universe was trying to put us together for a reason and we started talking after the conference about how USABA athletes could help CCVI spread the word that Trolley Run was a race that benefited blind and visually impaired children in Kansas City.
Last year, with the incredible sponsorship of local KC company FireMon, Heather, Markeith, Lex and Aaron traveled to KC and competed in the 2014 Trolley Run. Heather, Aaron and Lex required guide runners to tether with them during the race. Markeith has enough vision to allow him to run alongside his guide. CCVI recruited two great runners (and amazing guys), Jeremy Hammer and Brighyan Clifton, to tether and run with Aaron and Lex. In another incredible coincidence, Jeremy and Aaron both ran the 2014 Boston Marathon the week before Trolley Run 2014 and finished a few minutes apart. Talk about a perfect pairing a week later!
I nervously agreed to run with Heather as her sighted guide. I was so anxious and frankly, intimidated, to be a guide runner. It was something I had never done and I worried I would fail Heather – not run fast enough or accidentally cause her to trip and fall. It was honestly one of the single best experiences of my life! Heather is a wonderful, generous person who immediately put me at ease and we fell into a natural rhythm while running. I learned what information she needed to know and when – gradual right curve coming ahead in about 20 feet or shoot right to avoid grouping of runners ahead. At one point , Heather actually carried me mentally through the race. My legs were tiring and I said, “Heather, I am dying here.” She responded by yelling, “Come on Nicola. I can hear the music at the finish line. We can do this. Let’s go!” Well, I bucked up and we finished strong.
My other favorite memory of last year was dinner together with all the USABA athletes, the volunteer guide runners, one of the Trolley Run chairs, and CCVI staff. In the span of a simple dinner, all of us became friends. We told jokes, shared stories, laughed, and enjoyed great wine and food. Most importantly, I forgot the athletes were blind. We were just new friends having a night out together.
I am already planning dinner for this year’s athletes and I can’t wait to hear what my friends have been up to this past year and learn about several of their efforts to qualify for the Paralympics in Rio in 2016. In my wildest dreams, I never would have thought I would be having dinner or regularly exchanging Facebook messages with Olympic competitors and medal winners. Unbelievable!
I hope your schedule permits you to take the opportunity to meet the USABA athletes during packet pick-up on Saturday, April 25, or cheer them on as they compete in Trolley Run, or stop by and meet them post-race at the Assurant After Bash. They are all incredibly talented athletes, but they are even more inspirational human beings.
This year, come run alongside us for the 2015 CCVI Trolley Run - click HERE to register now!