First want to take this moment and wish all of you who are Moms and read my blog – Happy Mother’s Day 2015!
We didn’t do too much exciting here at Stately Rueff Manor. Did our regular Sunday routine and then Wendy went across town to her Mom’s house. Luke went with her while Andrew, Ryan and Micah and I stayed home. Ryan and Micah did two sets of exercises. After Wendy and Luke returned, our friend, who currently lives in my parents old house, came over with her three boys for dinner.
This was the first Mother’s Day since 2007 I didn’t call my Aunt Lee on Mother’s Day. I texted her though. Since my parents both unexpectedly died (my Mom in 2007 and my Dad in 2010) Aunt Lee and Uncle Bill are the closest things to parents I have. Our plan is to visit them and my cousin, Amy, in October of this year after Ryan and I accomplish our goal.
Oh, that’s right. I wrote in my blog post last week that later I would share some exciting news about Ryan and my running.
WE ARE GOING RACING!
When I think about it I have one of the easiest jobs in the world. For about three-to-five hours a day for four days a week except in December when it seems like I live at work, I scan boxes and then put them into various containers. These unit-load devices are 85”x128”x88.” Anyway, it is so monotonous I daydream and think of various things I could be doing instead of checking to see what famous person is sending a package. About the hardest part is having to lift a box which is between 75-100 pounds and so awkward you have to ask for help. That or walking into work finding out you’re doing another person’s job that day.
Nevertheless, Ryan and I had been running for a couple of weeks when an idea struck me while I was putting boxes into the containers one Thursday afternoon. Andrew had recently obtained his black belt in Taekwondo. Andrew and Luke are also successful with their Bible Bowl teams and constantly bringing ribbons and trophies home. I have noticed on a couple of occasions Ryan hanging his head in a sort of “When’s it going to be my turn” sort of way.
I thought to myself while putting one of the probably 1,500 boxes into containers to go to their next destinations – “Let’s race a half marathon.”
One of the biggest hindrances to having this easy job is I have to work on Saturdays. It’s also one of our busiest days thus unless you’re on vacation asking off Saturday’s is a premium request.
After dinner, playing with the boys, doing the last session of Brain Balance exercises with Ryan and Micah and then putting the boys to bed I came into my office and fired up the Google search engine.
The first thing I did was researched to see if any of the running gurus objected to a 12-year old running a half marathon. I found – NONE! Actually, most of the experts wrote positive feedback in forums and articles about kids running that distance at that age. For me and knowing if Ryan said yes to the idea I would have to convince Wendy with this evidence.
With Ryan having autism running and training for races might even be one of the better ways to help him in getting up to his age level mentally.
I found an article from “RunnersWorld” about Mikey Brannigan – a high school runner with autism who continues to crush his competition at an almost elite level. The quotes from both his coach and his mother were more testimony to reassure me this would be a great idea.
“The sport of running is ideal for people with autism,” Steven Cuomo, Brannigan’s coach, says. “(Kids with autism) have trouble socializing, they can’t look you in the eye. The last time I looked, you don’t have to give a speech when you cross the finish line. Just get there first. Just run, baby. Just go.”
The quote from Brannigan’s mother, Edith, is the one that got me.
“The best part of the whole thing is his (Mike’s) academics started to improve,” Edith says. “Within two years, so fourth and fifth grade, he became very close to age appropriate. And I know even though it’s not scientifically proven,” she continues, “it’s the running that did it. I saw it with my own eyes.”
Whatever race I picked there were certain criteria it had to meet for me to think about registering.
- It had to be somewhat small because Ryan doesn’t handle crowds well
- I wanted the course to be as flat as possible; I enjoyed the Indianapolis Marathon at Fort Ben in 2013 but for Ryan to enjoy his first race I couldn’t put him through that one where it seemed like every mile there was a hill to overcome. This was especially true in mile 10-11 where it seemed like the entire mile was nothing but up and down. I remember about halfway through the mile seeing a boy about the age of 13 finally tuckering out and holding his hands on top of his head to catch his breath.
- It had to be at a point where I knew we could get at least two pre-race races in to see how Ryan would handle running in a crowd.
- I had to make sure I could get the date off from work so we could do the race.
- Of course the main thing – it had to have a medal.
There’s the Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon on Nov. 7 in downtown Indianapolis, but it regularly sells out. Plus, who knows what the weather will be like even for early November in Indiana. It’s snowed a few times for that event. In addition, I was already scheduled to take the Saturday of the weekend of my birthday off and to ask for two Saturdays in November probably wouldn’t go over well with Al, my manager.
Then I saw one for the last weekend in September – The Mill Race Marathon/Half Marathon/5k in Columbus, Indiana on Sept. 26, 2015. This would be the third year for the race. As of right now there’s only 126 signed up for the half-marathon race and 43 signed up for the full.
I emailed the race organizer about a 12-year old running the half marathon but didn’t mention Ryan was autistic. I immediately heard back from her saying it was fine for children to run as long as the parent/guardian signed off on the registration and would also run in the race.
Columbus is a great small city in south-central Indiana. It is known for Cummins Engines and also known as the Midwest Mecca of Architecture. The course will go around most of the city and be able to see a lot of different building designs throughout the race.
I have always enjoyed Columbus. Growing up my Dad would take me to visit his friend, Marshall, in Edinburgh and we would routinely head the extra few miles south to Columbus to eat and go to the Sears for parts for their lawn tractors or to look at cars at the various dealerships in town.
I reveled in going to Columbus North High School’s Memorial Gym when Center Grove played regular season games against the North Bull Dogs or when the Trojans would play in the regional at North. Memorial Gym in the William L. Stearman Athletic Complex seats 7,071 and is the 12th largest high school gym in the state of Indiana and 13th in the nation. Sometimes when CG didn’t have a game and North was at home, I would make the drive to Memorial Gym to watch a game on a Friday or Saturday night as Sam Simmermaker would say I enjoyed the “ambiance” of the gym.(if you can’t tell I didn’t date much in high school).
I also spent a summer interning at one of the radio companies in Columbus – WKKG/WCSI – being mentored by the legendary sports voice, Sam Simmermaker. Thanks to webstreaming I can now listen to Simmermaker on line instead of trying to position my radio in a certain direction to pick up his voice on Friday nights during the fall and winter months.
Aside from those recollections, Columbus is known as a great running community. Since 2000 the boys and girls cross country teams have won six state championships combined and both North and East have had state-ranked teams and individuals.
For a first half marathon race for Ryan, I don’t think it could be any better for his enjoyment.
The next day I turned in a day-off request to Al. He looked at his calendars for the upcoming fiscal year – we run June 1 to May 31. He noticed I hadn’t requested any days off for the NCAA Tournament in March and made the comment – “You only have one more personal day left for 2015-16 and none requested yet for March. Are you feeling OK?”
The kind of relationship I have with Al I know I can make a smart-ass remark without any retribution and he’ll laugh about it. “Yeah, I’m OK. If Butler ends up playing on a Thursday afternoon per usual I can always just call in sick. Now can you sign off on it?”
“What are you going to be doing instead?” Al asked
“My autistic son, Ryan, and I are going to run a half marathon in Columbus.”
“Better you than me,” he replied.
With Al signing off on the request I had everything I now needed to discuss with Wendy and Ryan at dinner that night.
I got home from work that evening, went upstairs and showered and went back down for dinner. We had been eating for about 10 minutes. The boys informed me of all they had done that day while I was at work. They wanted to go out and play basketball after dinner.
“What did you think about at work today, Dad?” Andrew asked.
“I had an idea for Ryan and me,” I replied. “Ryan, what would you think about running a race? A half marathon like I did in 2013 with the church and Team World Vision?”
At that moment, Wendy dropped her fork. I looked at her from the other end of the table. She had this look of “I knew this was coming but didn’t expect it this soon but yeah I think it’s a good idea” on her face. I said, “I already have the perfect race in mind. Yes, I have the day off for it too.”
“We have to have a goal,” I said. “He can do this. Ryan, you can do this. We can do this. You’d get a medal.”
That’s when I got Ryan. When he heard the word medal he lit up and instantly shook his head saying yes and giggled like he does.
“There’s only one thing you have to promise me,” Wendy said as she picked up her fork and pointed it at me. “You will not train him as ridiculous as you trained for your last half.”
That would be the aforementioned Indianapolis Half Marathon I ran as part of Team World Vision through our church in 2013. It was one thing to raise money for Team World Vision and finish the race. I coveted setting a good time and possibly even placing in my age group. You can read the recap and the adventure of that race here – https://rueffreport.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/my-first-half-marathon/
As I did last time I confided in my friend, Tad Frahm, who ran cross country at the University of Indianapolis and until this year was the track coach at Greenwood High School. He was another one of the experts who said he saw no problem with a child Ryan’s age training for a half-marathon distance.
Frahm expressed I had to continue to make the runs fun and increase the mileage gradually throughout the training. I had to be flexible and know some days Ryan would likely not want to run the distance scheduled. He agreed with the two pre-races race schedules.
Unlike the other race there’s no pressure or expectations set for placing or time. The only goal we have is to arrive at the starting line injury free and finish strong. Although we now run without stopping to walk if on race day Ryan wants to walk for a little bit at the water stations that’s perfectly fine.
As for the training plan we have two more weeks at running our base 20 miles per week. On May 25 we formally begin increasing the mileage. The plan mimics the mileage I did in 2013 minus the scheduled specialized workouts. Some of the runs we will run “hilly routes” and sometimes while we run I will say “Let’s go for a full out sprint” to a certain landmark and then slow down.
Our first test is June 6 with the Race Away From Domestic Violence 5k at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. I had planned on running the 5k in August sponsored by the Indianapolis Colts, but for $70 I need more than a shirt and voucher for a worthless pre-season game against the Bears to entice to me to spend that much money on a 5k race. The thought of seeing if my running friends and others in my neighborhood who run would be interested in running a race on Labor Day in our subdivision seems like a better option.
While about 23,000 were running in the Mini 500 half marathon in Indianapolis on May 2, Ryan and I had our own pseudo 5K race. We wore our Therawheel shirts and dubbed it the “Therawheel 5k.” We ran it in 27:24. We came out of the gate too fast. Each mile was slower than the first, but we managed to have a solid kick at the end.
After today’s run, I congratulated Ryan again for staying with me the entire time. As we turned the corner for the final part of our run he once again turned it up a notch.
“Dad, what happens if I slow down?” Ryan asked.
I replied, “At this rate, Ryan, I’ll be trying to stay up with you in September.”