I literally stumbled upon Northwest Association for Blind Athletes, quite by accident. A few months earlier I had read a blog about a woman in Connecticut who ran as a guide through an organization called Achilles. I contacted her, we became friends, but I could not find an organization of Achilles in the Portland greater area. Shortly thereafter, I am out for a run along the waterfront and I happened upon NWABA cleaning up from a day of bicycling and I stopped to talk. The rest, as they say, is history.
I started running in January 2000 to lose a little weight. No expectations, just go out for a few miles here and there. In 2006 I decided to train for my 2nd marathon, my first being in 1981, 25 years earlier. My goal, like so many other distance runners was to try and qualify for Boston. I travelled from Billings, Montana to Newport, Oregon in June of that year, and to my surprise I qualified for the Boston marathon on my first attempt, running Boston in April of 2007. I thought I was done with marathons, but then in 2010 I read about the 2500th anniversary of the original marathon in Athens, Greece. Not one to pass on a travel opportunity, I signed up and ran one of the most emotional runs of my life. After Athens, I was reading about this crazy marathon in Antarctica. I thought, why not? There was a 3-4 year waiting period, so I was not even sure I would still be running marathons at that point in my life. Well, 2013 came around, I was up for another adventure, and my running life changed forever. On March 30, on the southern tip of South America in Ushuaia, Argentina, I caught a passenger ship, what had originally been a working Russian scientific vessel. A small ship, with 94 passengers on board, 88 of the passengers with the goal of running either a marathon or half marathon on the great white continent. For 10 days we talked and lived running. I met some of the most amazing people I will ever meet and a little fire was lit. In 20 degree temps on frozen ground, with penguins waddling around, I ran one of my favorite runs ever. I finished 3rd that day, but the bigger reward was that I now knew that I wanted to run a marathon on all 7 continents, and especially since I now had 3 behind me. Since that time, I have run in Myanmar (Asia #4), Australia (#5) and Brazil (S. America #6). The only continent I have to run to fulfill this dream is Africa which will occur on September 20, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Volunteering has always been a part of my life. I started back in the early 1980’s while in college and volunteering with the American Red Cross. I continued working with the American Red Cross for several years, but sometime in the 1990’s I began to work with kids in Special Olympics, and when I started my own business, a hometown Pharmacy, I began sponsoring the local kids in local and state competitions. Moving to Portland in 2011, I immediately contacted the Special Olympics and have been involved with the Radiothon, Officers Torch run, and Polar Plunge. And then the fateful day when I met the group of bicyclists with NWABA. I was placed with Jim Jackson within a week, although I was on the road (running 3 marathons over 14 days), and we began running together the first of October. Combining my love of running with my joy of volunteer work has been the best experience.
HAVE YOU MET MY FRIEND JIM!!? I do not really consider running with Jim as volunteer work. I consider it as the lucky day, that I met a great man, with a lovely family. We try to run together 3 days a week, as long as both our scheduleswork out. I not only get to run with Jim, but as he is often in charge of his son during the day, I get to run with Chester as well, pushing his stroller while Jim and I run tethered together. We initially were running 3-4 miles each day, but have worked up to a long run of just over 8 miles. Our immediate goal is to run a half marathon together on February 15th at the Heartbreaker Half in Hillsboro. Jim is a driven man, and his longer range goal is to run a full marathon, hopefully by summer. Jim is in the process of starting his own business, teaching music out of his home, yet on our last run this past week, we talked about running the Boston marathon. He realizes it is a marathon you cannot just sign up for and run, one has to qualify. I think Jim Jackson is a man with a goal and one I believe he can accomplish!
If one were to ask me how to describe our partnership, I can only give you a big smile. My favorite days are when we are running along, having a great conversation, cruising at a nice clip, and Jim, out of the blue blurts out “I feel so free, I feel so free”. Tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face, all I can do is agree with him, “I feel so free”.