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What I Faced, and Gained From Being a Runner With a Disability

During high school being a runner was such an incredible experience. It gave me a purpose and identity. I wasn’t just the learning disabled and seizure kid, I was a runner and a teammate. However, I faced many obstacles along the way and at times it did seem hopeless, but thankfully I never gave up.

The biggest obstacle of all surfaced during cross-country. Due to my poor spatial perception I would get lost at times while running my race, and sometimes it was so bad I would have to drop out of the race. This lead me to feeling like a bad teammate. Fortunately my coach, Jim Adams, was always right there with a hug and offering support. Afterward we could have a laugh about it and everything became better.

Another obstacle I faced was not being able to put on my running bib. Because my fine motor skills were so limited, I struggled doing this and it truly made me feel like I was little kid. Thankfully my coach always took care of it graciously, but I thought to myself, “I can’t even do this.” That lead me to think having me on the team was so overwhelming for everyone, and I felt I should not join the team that next year. But Jim always told me that cross-country is all about giving it your best, and explained that was what it was all about.

Being an athlete with a disability also affected me socially. Some people who I was friendly with didn’t quite understand how a student with a learning disability like mine could also be popular teammate. By my coach speaking so fondly about me, more teachers gave me a chance and believed in me more as a student in their class. My peers were also more accepting of me, which made me feel that I belonged.

Furthermore, I truly felt horrible that there were others who wanted to join, but didn’t have the support and connections to make it happen. I am not sure I would have joined a team if not for my parents’ encouragement and the full support of my coaches. Through each difficulty, I always realized my coach was right. I did belong in the field. Personally it taught me how to cope with life’s obstacles. His care was very instrumental for this to happen, and along the way I was able to form some great friendships. Years later, I still think the world of them all as they changed my life for the better.

While it’s hard overall, I hope you never give up because being part of sports teams leads to creating stronger friendships and recognizing your true abilities. Also, talent really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you work hard, listen, believe in your coach and are respectful of your teammates. If you can do that, there’s no reason to give up.  I strongly believe being part of a team can turn into a memorable experience for you too.

Image Credits: Eileen Herzog

Photo submitted by contributor.