Once upon a time, there was a boy who had bilateral hip dysplasia. It hurt, and he had to stay in bed. This boy had a friend who liked to go running. “You can run for me anytime!” the boy said to his friend. That simple phrase sparked a movement, and Irun4 was born.
Today, this organization has approximately 10,000 members in 24 countries, and it pairs up athletes (who are normal folks), with people who have disabilities or diseases that prohibit them from running or being active. The athletes can dedicate their runs, workouts, or races to their buddy who can’t be out there.
I have two very special people in my life who inspire me on a daily basis; Kevin and Daryl are both my cousins, from opposite sides of the family, so even though they don’t know each other, they are sort of cousins, too. For different reasons, neither one can run anymore, so when I’m out there, and when I start to get tired, I remember these two amazing guys who would trade places with me in a heartbeat, and just that thought makes it a little easier to push through.
When Kevin was 12, the summer after his 6th grade year, he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. MD is a genetic born disease where the muscle cell walls break down and don’t grow. He described it to me this way, “Imagine a balloon with little holes – the balloon can’t hold in air with the holes.” There are nine major groups of the muscular dystrophies – he has the one called Facioscapulohumeral MD (FSHD), and it initially affects muscles of the face (facio), shoulders (scapulo), and upper arms (humera) with progressive weakness. Kevin’s is the third most common form of MD, and while some forms of MD are life threatening, his is not. He does not live in pain, but because his 12 year old muscles are supporting a full grown man’s body now, it is safer and better for him to be in a wheelchair all the time now.
I remember being in college and, as college students do, a group of us (including Kevin) were sitting around talking about whatever. The topic turned to the dreams we have when we sleep, and somebody asked, “what’s your favorite dream?” and we all took turns answering. When it was Kev’s turn, he said, “It’s when I dream I’m running. When it feels so real.” That statement has always stuck with me because he dreams about something that I just take for granted. The last time he was able to run was in junior high….
Daryl has been a runner his whole life – fun runs, runs with family members, cross country in school, track, etc. When Daryl was in college, he was road-tripping home for Thanksgiving with some friends, and enroute from Grand Rapids, MI to Loveland, CO, they were in a car accident. Daryl was thrown from the vehicle, and when he woke up, he was a paraplegic. Today, he is an accomplished musician, writer, and teacher. Recently he told me he is getting back into Hand Cycling, which sounds pretty hard core to me.
These guys inspire me because they would love to run, even though they aren’t able to anymore. More than that though, they inspire me with their amazing attitudes every day. These are not the guys that sit on the sideline – they are out there living! They are out there in their communities, at work, sharing with family and friends, living courageous and joy filled lives. It is my honor to dedicate my runs to these two extraordinary men – they inspire me to go further, push harder, and challenge myself when I think I’m done.
If you are interested in learning more about IR4, donating, or being matched up as an athlete or a buddy, please check out their site here.