Flying Yankee Aids Challenged Athlete

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael J. Johnson
  • 103rd Civil Engineer Squadron
Last summer I ran in the Wethersfield 10k race at Wethersfield Cove. I had been nursing a sore ankle that ended up being Achilles tendonitis. While walking around after the race, I noticed a couple that had finished the 5K race. He was wearing a "Challenged Athletes" t-shirt and was holding his partner's arm.

Challenged Athletes is a foundation that helps physically challenged athletes such as amputees, paralysis, etc. So I ap-proached them to talk about the race. As I got closer, I could see from his eyes that he was blind. She had just escorted him on this race. Seemed pretty amazing! His name is Mike and hers is Nancy. Mike is 65-years-old and has been blind all of his life due to a premature birth incident. De-spite that, he wrestled in high school and has been running most of his life, includ-ing two full marathons. Still, like a lot of us, he has slowed down in his older age. They are from Connecticut but now live in California and were a few weeks away from heading back out west. Nancy asked if I'd like to escort Mike on a race sometime. I said, "Sure!" Little did I know that opportunity would come in just two weeks? Nancy brought Mike to the Union Street Tavern Trot 3.5-mile race in Windsor so that I could escort him. We practiced my escorting duties before the race and it gave Mike a chance to get familiar with my running pattern. We ran the race--very slowly--but we did it. I hadn't realized how much I count on my arm swing for running, which I could not do too well while using my right arm for escort. Personally speaking, it was my slowest race--and it did not bother me at all. I was con-cerned that my Achilles tendonitis would act up, but it didn't--NOT that day.

I learned from prior experience with the Challenged Athletes Foundation that the athletes like to talk about their "Challenge" and how they overcome it. So, it is okay to ask! If you go to a race and see someone in a racing wheelchair or someone with a prosthetic, go up and say, "Hi." Ask them how they are doing. You'll find yourself in a VERY motivating conver-sation. For more information, go to: