Monumental Makes Five

A race will not define you as a runner or as a person. You control what you can control and go with whatever the good Lord gives you on that given day. Race day is nothing more than a victory lap of your training.

Let’s get this out-of-the-way right at the beginning. The competitor in me had an expectation Saturday that not only would Ryan get a new PR at the CNO Financial Group Monumental Half Marathon, but he would shatter it.

By destroying it, I mean coming close to my own personal record.

The Dad in me knew better.

Moral to the story – “Father knows best.”

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Of course, we had to take a selfie prior to the start of the Monumental Half Marathon.

We had practiced how we were going to start the race during a run on Wednesday. We started out around a 7:45 pace for the first mile then bumped it up to 7:15 for the next four. Ryan was with me the entire time.

Saturday, we started out the way we wanted to for the first three miles. Then it was time to bump up to our intended race pace.

I picked up the speed. Ryan stayed steady eddy.

The competitor in me got frustrated. Wednesday’s race-start simulation went well. I oozed with confidence. I thought once we got through traffic of some runners we could settle into that 7:15-7:30 pace for a few miles. Then we could race the final 5k with a chance of breaking my PR.

Ryan had got his groove on like he usually does when he runs. He had settled into a pace to his liking for that particular day. He was smiling, giggling and thanking the police officers and volunteers along the course. He was quite content running at about an eight-minute pace.

The good thing was he wasn’t going to go any slower. On the other hand, he wasn’t going to go any faster.

Ryan’s pace Saturday during the race was precisely in the middle of his cross-country-race paces and his long runs with me during the training cycle.

Once we got to Fall Creek Parkway, where the full and half marathon’s split for the Monumental races, I knew the best thing for us was to shoot to beat Ryan’s OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini time of 1:48:12.

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Ryan’s steady paces. The top one from the Monumental Half Marathon. The middle our run from Wednesday. The bottom – our last long distance run on Oct. 27.

The Dad in me told the competitor in my head, “It is what it is. Remember what Uncle Bill told you! Now just run and have fun.”

For some reason when we made the turn from 30th Street to Meridian Street, I lost my sense of direction. I swore we were going north instead of south. It wasn’t until we got to Fall Creek Parkway – about a half mile from 30th Street – when I looked up to see the SalesForce Tower through the fog in the overcast sky, I realized we were heading south toward the finish.

Once we got to the 11-mile marker, I tried to get Ryan to go with me and pick off other runners like we usually do in our races. We made the turn from Meridian to New York and finally to Capitol Avenue.

I looked to my right and saw Coach Ben. He yelled for Ryan to pick it up. Ryan got even with me. We finished together – 1:46:42.

A new half-marathon PR for Ryan.

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This year’s CNO Financial Group Monumental Half Marathon medal.

We went to the results tent and got our sheets. Ryan looked at the sheet and told me, “New PR. Beat Leenie’s time. One-forty five will have to wait for another day,” Ryan said.

“Two out of three, uh,” I responded.

Ryan just smiled.

Ryan had beat two of his three numbers he had set for the race. He got a new PR and he finally beat our friend Colleen’s time from when she ran the 500 Mini in 2016.

And the competitor in me got reminded again EXACTLY why we do this.

A race is nothing more than victory lap.

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Ryan once again had another monumental run through the streets of Indianapolis.

The Rob Petrie Moment

No big-event weekend with me isn’t complete without a Rob-Petrie-like moment. If you know me well enough, you know the “Dick VanDyke Show” is my all-time favorite television show. It didn’t take long for it to happen on race morning.

Ryan and I had awoke. We got dressed and I helped him put on his compression socks before we went downstairs.

I took our bag with our after-race outfits and toiletries to put in the in trunk of my car. Ryan started to put on his arm warmers, shoes and watch. Then I saw I had a text from a friend. I sat on the couch and began to reply. Prior to taking the bag out to the car, I took the car key off the ring with my other keys. I finished my reply and then noticed I couldn’t find my car key.

Panic!

I looked all over my office. I looked under both sofas. I looked on the island in the kitchen. I looked on the kitchen table. I went back to the car praying I hadn’t dropped it in the trunk with bag as I closed it. I even got the keys to my older car we have out on the street right now just in case I couldn’t find the key in the next five minutes.

I also hoped Ryan wasn’t playing another one of his slight-of-hand tricks like he did during our run with the little clip lights back in April.

Finally, I kicked a sock that was on the floor in front of where I was sitting while I texted my friend and found the key.

Crisis averted.

I wasn’t out of the proverbial woods.

The next moment happened when we got to the parking lot. I put my key in the pocket of my shorts. When I went to zip it up, the zipper broke. I didn’t think it was wise to have my vital information in a place where it could possibly fall out or worse if someone tried to pick-pocket me as we were waiting in the corral or even along the course.

After we ran our warm up and arrived at the convention center to stay warm and do some stretching, I went to the restroom. I tried to fix the zipper but to no avail. I ended up putting the key and my other important race-day necessities into Ryan’s pocket.

Oh the People You Will Meet

It always interest me when we run into people at various races. Saturday was no different.

We headed toward the finish of the second mile when we ran into my high-school friend Larry Roberts. He was running the full marathon Saturday. We spoke for a few moments and then continued on down Virginia Avenue.

As we headed north on Pennsylvania Street, we then ran into Jason Bletzinger. We had begun following each other on twitter over the summer through the #runchat group. His wife, Kara, ran the full – an interesting tidbit about her race a bit later. Jason and I talked about the beginning miles of the race. He asked me how Ryan liked going to Indiana University last Sunday for the Big 10 Cross Country Championships.

At the split and making a turn on 29th Street another twitter connection through #runchat was met when we saw Kristen Lund. Like Bletzinger, we were excited to finally meet each other in person. It was here that I realized Ryan was in his set pace for the remainder of the race. Lund’s husband and I have talked about running and autism on a couple of occasions through e-mail. We discussed that along with how amazing it is now that Ryan is in this pattern of getting into a particular pace and staying with it. As we made the turn on 34th Street, Lund picked up her pace and ventured on the course.

After the race, a gentleman named Phil approached us. “The last four races we have run with each other, I have tried to chase you two down at the end. It’s fun watching you get Ryan to catch you at the end. It inspires me to go even faster at the end. It won’t be too long until you’ll not have to do that anymore.”

We had received our medals, the goodies, the space blanket and the results. We were headed back to the car when we saw Thad Matta and his wife Barb.

I first met Thad my freshman year at Butler when he was a grad assistant for the Bulldogs. When I had my little radio show on a station down in Franklin, Indiana, Matta was my first guest when he was the head coach at Butler during the 2000-2001 season.

Ever since he left Butler for the Bulldogs arch-rival, Xavier, after that one season, when I see him, I still tease him about telling me during an interview that he said, “I’ll be a Bulldog forever.” Of course, the next week he left to take the job with the Musketeers.

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Quickly catching up with former Butler player and coach Thad Matta. His daughters bookended Ryan. Emily finished ahead of him and Ali finished behind him.

The Monumental Wave Experiment

Like all things when you do something new there’s going to be room for improvement. This year the Monumental Marathon decided to go with wave starts to possibly help faster runners get out and avoid traffic.

For the most part, it seemed to work better than last year’s free-for-all. Although, they might want to get with their pals at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon about how to segregate the waves even more. The 500 Mini has waves, but also sorts those waves out by even more specific predicted finishing times. For instance, the 500 Mini has Wave 1, which has subcategories A through E for various times from the elites to 2:00:00. Then Wave 2 follows with the same parameters with slower times.

Another aspect would be to have better monitoring of the waves. Ryan and I were in wave 2 Saturday morning, but I noticed a lot of people with 3, 4 and even a couple of 5s on their bibs sneak into our corral prior to the start. The 500 Mini and even at the Mill Race Marathon in Columbus, Ind. have people at the entrance of the corrals checking bibs to make sure they go into the correct section. I didn’t see that Saturday morning.

The Y

What an absolute Godsend being parked close to the Irsay YMCA was for us. We were able to walk back to the car, get the bag with our after-race gear and walk over to the facility. It was nice getting to take a long-warm shower and get cleaned up. Even though we would have been in the car for the ride home, being able to shower and warm up there was perfect.

Tracking Is So Much Fun In Person

As I alluded to earlier in this post, I had an interesting tidbit about Kara Bletzinger as she ran the Monumental Marathon Saturday. After we cleaned up at the Y, we went back the 3/4 of a mile from our car to the finish line. I tracked several of our friends, who were running the marathon portion, and noticed they were about to finish the race.

Two in particular were Bletzinger and another one of my virtual-running friends, Catharine Yates.

This is the fun part of tracking people when they race – you know them and they know you. Sometimes though you can see them on the tracker running with people you know that they don’t know.

That’s the case with Bletzinger and Yates.

When I opened the app and saw the map tracking, Bletzinger and Yates were right next to each other. They stayed that way pretty much through the end.

They were on pace to finish at the same time. Ryan had just returned from the restroom as I looked down at the tracker. He tapped me.

“Dad!”

“Yeah,” I said.

“That’s one of the numbers you told me to look for,” he said as he pointed.

It was Yates sprinting toward the finish line on Washington Street.

We cheered Yates on to the finish. Unfortunately, we did not see Bletzinger finish.

We met Yates at the end of the finishing chute. She finished with a time of 4:08:06. It was better than her Chicago Marathon time of 2016. She was quite happy about the time, but was somewhat bummed.  If the race had been later in December or even next year, she would have qualified for Boston.

Later in the evening the feeling returned to excitement as Yates read the rules to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Despite making the time prior to her next birthday, Yates did indeed make a BQ time with her run Saturday for the 2019 Boston Marathon.

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Ryan and I with another friend who ran Monumental and earned a Boston Marathon qualifying time in Catharine Yates.

Recovery

Once we crossed the finish line of the CNO Financial Group Monumental Half Marathon, our “Zero Week” commenced. After 14 weeks of hard training plus Ryan running cross-country, a much-needed few days off was definitely in store for both of us.

Ever since I realized I was overtraining in September, I also dealt with a nagging back issue. During the week when I took a couple of unplanned rest days, I doubted if I would even be able to run the race. Matter of fact, I had Colleen on standby to run with Ryan in case I couldn’t.

I am also on vacation these next few days. I plan on sleeping in a couple of days while also working on my accounting class in my MBA program.

On Monday, Ryan and I took a visit to the new St. Vincent Sports Performance Center in downtown Indianapolis. Back in April, Ryan saw a picture on Instagram of his favorite runner Jordan Hasay using the Normatec Recovery Boots.

When I went to the open house for the new SVSP Center, which is conjunction with the Indiana Pacers, I thought Ryan would get a thrill being treated like an elite runner after a race.

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Ryan getting a Normatec session like Jordan Hasay while at the new St. Vincent Sports Performance facility in Indianapolis.

After the 30-minute session in the boots, Ryan got his legs massaged while Jon Grant took a look at my back. Come to find out I have some alignment issues. He gave me exercises and stretches to do for the next few weeks to hopefully alleviate the problem.

Prayers for Eli

This is a big week for one of my good running friends, Brian Wilson and his family. His son, Eli, is having brain surgery Friday morning in Cleveland.

Eli will have a left frontal lobe resection. They will be going in on the same scar line from his first surgery that was six years ago. They will take a larger area of the damaged tissue of the brain in order to eliminate the spiking.

So, if you could, please say an extra prayer for the Wilsons this week. To keep them strong and constantly reassure that faith moves God. Also specifically pray the surgery puts an end to the spiking and seizure activity that Eli continues to experience.

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Big prayers this week for our running buddy Brian Wilson and his son, Eli’s, surgery.

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Keep the Expectations in Check

“It may not be this Saturday at the Monumental Half. It could be the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon next May. The fact is the day is closer now than it ever has been when I will no longer be able to run competitively with Ryan.”

It has come to the inevitable point of the training cycle when running friends, non-running friends, co-workers, and family members ask the dreaded question – “What’s the goal time?”

Of course, the ultimate goal always is to arrive at the starting line Saturday on Capitol Avenue injury free. Then for Ryan and I to finish strong after making the turn from Capitol Avenue to Washington Street to complete our debut in the CNO Financial Group Monumental Half Marathon.

I would be lying to anyone who ask if that was my only reply to the question.

Everyone knows better.

EVERYONE!

We have numbers. Who really doesn’t when they go into a race?

Ryan has three – which he still hasn’t told anyone. I have two. A select few know my numbers. They have followed our training through GarminConnect and Strava. They believe mine are realistic for what we want to accomplish Saturday.

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Numbers? This close to race day they are on everyone’s mind.

Even if we don’t achieve any of the numbers, it won’t take away from the accomplishment of running the Monumental Half Marathon. This will be Ryan’s fifth in two years and my sixth since my friend Colleen conned me off the dreadmill and on to the roads back in 2013.

I mentioned in the previous post this is the hardest I have ever trained for a “goal race.”

I have to be honest, I really want this race Saturday to go as perfect as possible. More so than I have ever wanted since Ryan began running with me.

The downside to training with that intensity, it caused me to overtrain during the month of September.

How do I know this you ask? Easy. One of the parents of Ryan’s Genesis United Cross Country teammates messaged me and asked what was up. They mentioned I hadn’t been acting like myself the last few days. After a pyramid interval workout, my quads felt like they dropped to my ankles.

That’s when it dawned on me – the training for the race, work, missing the last three of Ryan’s big meets, studying for my MBA class, and our special project all got to me.

I was a bear at home, at work, at the cross-country practices and even sometimes when Ryan ran with me on Fridays and Sundays. Like my days growing up when I would be stressed from studying for my classes or putting together projects in my Radio/TV classes at Butler, my baseball hat was on backward and I listened to classical music not only in my “mind palace,” but the car as well.

All of the above provided to be factors for the pressure I felt.

It was mainly the training though that was the biggest culprit.

I made the decision to take a couple of unplanned rest days.

That meant no running.

I didn’t even do Dr. Jordan Metzl’s IronStrength videos.

One day I slept in until it was time to go to work. The next day, I finished up one of my papers for my MBA class.

The break helped.

I returned rested and focused. Even my family, friends and co-workers – even the teammates parent – noticed the difference.

I returned to having solid training runs. Ryan also had productive long runs on the days he ran with me. Looking to my left or right and seeing him smile or laugh even brought an extra pep in my step. A couple of times, I even finished a run with a little dance.

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Smiling running faces are the best faces.

The biggest reason I am excited about Saturday is because of the progress I have seen Ryan make this fall through his training and running on the Genesis United Cross Country team.

I want to see it all payoff with his best half-marathon performance.

As previously mentioned, whatever happens Saturday, it’s just one day. It will not define us as runners or people. We will control what we can and go with whatever else the good Lord gives us. There will be other races.

Then again…

It may not be this Saturday at the Monumental Half. It could be the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon next May. The fact is the day is closer now than it ever has been when I will no longer be able to run competitively with Ryan.

Ryan’s running delights me because of the joy it brings him. As I have noted throughout this blog, Ryan has become a student of the sport. Sunday, we went to the Big 10 Cross Country Championships at Indiana University. It interested me more to watch Ryan take in all the ambiance of the event. Ryan observed all the details of various runners. He watched what they did during warm ups. Ryan also viewed how they started the race and how they surged up and down the hills of the IU course. As the women’s runners started out on the course, Ryan pointed out Katherine Receveur of the Hoosiers. He said he expected her to win. She did with a course record of 20:10.3!

Conversely, it pains me that like I did at the Sparkler Sprint back in July when we start a race together, he will soon leave me to set his own PR and place in his age division. When that race happens, it won’t be tears of sadness though. I’ll cry tears of happiness.

Through it all, I realize how blessed I have been to spend this time with Ryan on the roads running and training for races.

Now to survive the crazy Taper Tantrums.

 

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First XC Season in the Books & Taper Time

Well, Ryan and Luke’s cross-country season came to an end last week.

Ryan got to run in the Ohio Valley Championships at Ceraland Park in Columbus, Ind. He finished 38th with a time of 22:36. Unfortunately, Luke got injured during warm ups of the Eastern Hancock Invitational on Sept. 19. He was in a walking boot for about two weeks and never made it back for a regular race the rest of the season.

Ryan was consistently Genesis United’s No. 2 runner. His best time was 22:02 at the University High School Invitational. As hard as Ryan tried, he could never break the 22:00 barrier. The weather also didn’t make it easy as I think there was only a couple of times when the temperature was below 75 degrees at the start of a race.

Ryan’s biggest accomplishment of the season came at the Indiana Christian Schools Athletic Association State Meet at Horizon Christian. Ryan gutted out a time of 22:53 on a hilly course to earn 20th place. That got him a spot on the All-State Team. As a freshmen, that’s a great accomplishment.

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Ryan all smiles after finishing 20th at the Indiana Christian Schools Athletic Association State Meet.

Earlier in the season on the same course, Luke had his highlight. He battled it out with another runner and his placing allowed Genesis to beat the other team that evening for ninth place. He also had beat his previous time from the Lutheran Invitational by five minutes! Luke’s undecided at the moment if he will continue running. I really hope he does especially since his career goal right now is to get into law enforcement and work for a S.W.A.T. unit.

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Luke coming out of the woods on the trail at the Scecina/Horizon Christian Invitational.

 

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Unfortunaately, Luke suffered a severely sprained ankle during warm ups of a meet at Eastern Hancock and was sidelined for the rest of the season.

For a start-up program, it was successful season for the Genesis United team. It will be interesting to see how the program grows in these next few years. I, for one, am optimistic especially as the runners gain experience and grow together as a team.

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The Genesis United Boys Cross Country team huddling for last-minute instructions from Coach Ben before a race.

Running cross country this fall brought out a different side of Ryan I had never seen in his running. He had a look of determination and competitiveness that I really hadn’t seen from him. It was like he took his running to another level.

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Ryan in the lead pack of No. 2 runners.

I think a lot of it has to deal with his autism, but as much as he showed being competitive, once Ryan settled into a pace sometimes he was content to not go any faster or any slower. Though he kept that look of determination on his face.

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Ryan trying to hold a runner from Eminence at the end of the University High School Invitational.

There were a few times at the end of races, Coach Ben or I would tell him to start his kick. Much like he did at the Indy Milers six-mile and 10-mile races prepping for the 500 Mini, it seemed like Ryan couldn’t move into the next gear. Thus, Ryan got “out kicked” a couple of times.

Most notably not picking up the pace at the end cost him at the Eastern Hancock Invitational. Ryan was passed right at the finish line from a runner he had gapped with about a mile left.

With so much going on outside of the cross-country realm, I wasn’t able to do write ups about it through this blog like I wanted during the season. Along with the practices and meets, Andrew and Micah had their own activities. Plus, we have our little project going on, which is almost finished. Throw in my work schedule and busting tail in my MBA program and like Ferris Bueller said, “life moves pretty fast.”

As I type this post, I am anxiously awaiting my grade in Joint Commission Standards Accreditation and Auditing. I’ll be one-third of the way through after that course is completed.

Now with cross-country season complete, Ryan returns running with me on a more-regular basis. Of course, just in time for us to begin the taper phase of training for the CNO Financial Group Monumental Half Marathon.

Once cross-country practices started – about the time we were supposed to start training for the Monumental Half, Ryan only ran with me on Fridays and Sundays. Fridays were usually easy runs the day before a cross-country race. Sundays, we got up early to get a long run in before church.

Ryan still giggles as he runs with me, but one thing I have noticed is he stays right with me the entire run. Prior to him running cross country with Genesis United, if we see a “car up,” he would get behind me and stay that way for the rest of the run. Now, once the car has passed us, Ryan returns to my side until it’s time to pick up the pace at the end. It makes me proud that there have been a couple of finishes where I have done all I can to keep up with him more than normal.

Like I have told a lot of my running friends these last couple of weeks, I am trying to stay even keel about Monumental. Ryan and I have both trained hard these 12 weeks. Actually, I know it’s the hardest I have trained for a race since I PR’d at the Indianapolis Half Marathon at Fort Ben in 2013.

Ryan’s race times from cross country along with some of his practice and our long-run times has me believing he will crush all the numbers he wants to obtain on Nov. 4. With the race in Indianapolis, there’s no doubt in my mind as he always does, Ryan will raise his level of running up a notch.

We watched Ryan’s favorite runner, Jordan Hasay, battle to a third-place finish at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 8. Hasay also set the American course record for a runner in the Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:20:57. Hasay beat her Boston debut time by 2:03. Ryan predicted she’d get 2:20:00.

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Ryan’s favorite runner, Jordan Hasay, crossing the finishing line at the Chicago Marathon.

We’ve watched the Chicago Marathon about five times since it’s original airing. Ryan still gets excited as he sees Hasay finish. He also gets enthused when he sees Hasay’s  Oregon Project teammate, Galen Rupp, “put the hammer down” at mile 23 to take control of the men’s race and eventually win it.

Both were examples of what Ben and I have been trying to teach Ryan on how to finish out a race these last three months. Hopefully, he’ll mimic a mix of Rupp and Hasay as he finishes the Monumental Half in two weeks.

I took a quote from Hasay in one of the articles about her race and put it next to the issue of Runner’s World she signed for Ryan. “You’re just going to be hurting tremendously. That’s something you’ve got to love as a runner: you’ve got to take pride in that. I was excited to be hurting, and just embracing the pain, embracing the challenge, and just staying calm.”

I also took part of the headline from the Runner’s World article about Hasay’s Chicago race and placed it on his bathroom mirror – “BE BRAVE AND RACE!” He’s moved it to his closet door since his final cross-country race.

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The sign of “Be Brave and Race” – Ryan’s mantra for the upcoming CNO Financial Group Monumental Half Marathon.

Every once in awhile during a run or when we are just sitting around I will say to him, “Be brave.” He quickly and confidently replies, “And RACE!

A couple of days ago, he even added, “And embrace the pain!”

Regardless of what happens on Nov. 4, it’s just one day. We’ll do the best we can for that particular day with whatever gets thrown at us.

There is Another

I began this blog to keep me motivated to write about sports. For some hare-brained reason, even though it’s been more than a few years of playing the Grantland-Rice Wannabe on an every day basis, I thought my friends would still be interested in my worthless ramblings on what took place in the sports world.

Of course, now I mainly write about my adventures running with Ryan.

It comes as a shock when I meet people who read this publication (can we call it that?) and they find out I actually have three other sons. Everyone who reads it knows of Ryan. I have mentioned the other three from time-to-time.

One of my “Four Horsemen” though constantly gets lost in the mix. Wendy refers to it as the dreaded “middle-child syndrome.”

Believe it or not, sometimes when we are out, people, who don’t know us well or we haven’t seen in a long time, will come up to us and say, “Who’s friend is that?” After we tell them he’s ours, the reply usually is, “Oh, I didn’t know you had four.”

That other one is Luke – the third oldest of the Fabulous Rueff Boys. Luke’s a lot like me in that he’s constantly trying to find his niche. I’m 45 – be 46 soon and still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

He’s tried Taekwondo. He played the drums. Luke participated in Bible Bowl. He’s played soccer. He also belongs to the local TrailLife group and enjoys camping out and also shooting his guns and archery.

For the better part of the last year though, Luke has struggled to find himself and what he likes to do – aside from school, video games, helping Wendy with her Sunday school class and TrailLife.

Since I spend a lot of one-on-one time with Ryan on our morning runs, I usually take each night of a weekend and spend it individually with the other three. Fridays with Andrew, Saturdays with Micah and Sundays with Luke.

The Sunday night after Ryan had run in the Greenwood Christian Academy Hokum Karem and we had our worst long run ever, I took Luke for my ultimate guilty pleasure of Dairy Queen. We were in the booth eating blizzards (his a cookie-dough and mine a M&M-Oreo).

During our conversation, Luke paused and asked a question.

“Do you mind if I go with you to practice tomorrow night?”

“Why?” I replied. “You’d be bored to death. I usually read a book or text back and forth with friends or with Uncle Bill. What would you do for two hours?”

“No,” Luke said. “To run. What would you think if I went to practice tomorrow night and ran. Ryan along with Donavon and Garrett looked like they were having a lot of fun with each other Saturday at the meet. And, I’ve missed being part of a team.”

For those who know our family well whenever they see Luke the first question usually asked is, “What sport does he play?” That’s because out of my four sons, Luke, is the one who looks the most athletic. A majority of my friend’s jaws drop to the floor when I tell them he doesn’t or hasn’t played any sport since trying soccer when he was 5-years old.

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Luke has always had that “athlete” look.

I basically had the same reaction when Luke replied to me that Sunday night. My spoon left my mouth and missed the cup holding my concoction as an M&M and a small piece of Oreo melted off the spoon on to the table.

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My guilty pleasure.

I also need to preface this because the week before, Luke had chased Ryan around the house and caught him. Luke came in the house and said, “See, I could run like he does. I bet I could beat Ryan on a regular basis.”

Wendy and I had challenged him to go to practice, but Luke declined the invitation. “We all know who the fastest is in this house. I don’t need to prove it every day.”

I looked into my third oldest son’s eyes to gauge the seriousness of his comment at the restaurant.

Yep, it was that intense look he gets when Luke wants to be competitive.

I instantly texted Coach Ben Houston. He said he would be glad if Luke joined the team for practice the next night.

We asked Ryan what he thought. In typical Ryan fashion, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “uh.”

Luke went to practice Monday. Most of the team ran their “Mileage Monday” workouts while Luke ran and walked around the circle with the team in the neighborhood next to the park where we meet.

On Tuesday, the day I ran to push Ryan during his tempo workout, Luke had his mile-time trial. He was pushing himself and as Ryan and I passed him one time he was wheezing hard to catch his breath.

As I drove home that night, Luke sat in the passenger side of the car and declared.

“I’m done! I can’t do it. I told you Mom and you, I’d give a shot, but after tonight, I don’t want to.”

We left it at that. I texted Houston and told him of Luke’s decision. I could tell by the response, Coach was a little disappointed.

“Is he sure?” Ben asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

I left it alone on Wednesday with Luke. Neither Wendy or I brought it up or asked if he had any second thoughts on going back for the next practice on Thursday night.

I got home from work Thursday evening and yelled at Ryan to go upstairs and get ready for practice. I went upstairs as well to change clothes.

When I returned to the first floor, not only was Ryan on the couch dressed and ready for practice with his water bottle in his hand, but Luke was as well.

“Uh, I thought you were done,” I said to Luke.

“I kept thinking about it all day yesterday and today,” Luke replied. “I’ve decided to stick it out.”

I knew before I texted Houston that Luke was returning for practice, after I had told him late Tuesday night Luke was done, Houston was going to tell me that by the end of practice he would expect Luke to give a definite yes or no for the rest of the season.

That’s exactly what I told Luke.

“You have tonight,” I said. “But understand at the end of practice, your answer to Coach Houston’s question of yes or no is final.”

“Yes, sir,” Luke said.

He went through practice and the exercises after practice that night. As everyone else on the team gathered their belongings, Houston took Luke aside and asked him what his decision was going to be for the rest of the season.

Luke answered that he was committed to the team.

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Luke and Ryan after a recent practice with the Genesis Cross Country team.

We went and got his gait analyzed and his feet properly fitted for shoes. We also got him some running gear for practices.

On the days that they don’t have practice with the team, but have miles scheduled by Coach Houston, I continue to run with Ryan in the mornings and now with Luke in the evenings.

When I run with Luke, I always talking about his form. I am trying to slowly get his mind and body acclimated to the newness of running. Although he gets frustrated because he sees everyone else being faster than him right now, the key will be to constantly be positive. Coach Houston is convinced if Luke stays with it, he can turn into a solid runner not only for himself, but the team as the season progresses.

Since Luke didn’t start right when the Genesis United Cross Country team was formed toward the end of July, he’ll probably spend most of this season trying to catch up with the rest of the team. The only thing any of us want to see from him is constant improvement. The good thing is we are seeing it.

Luke ran in his first ever race Tuesday night in the Lutheran High School Invitational at Southeastway Park. He got out too fast and already looked out of energy by the time I saw him at about the half-mile mark of the course.

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Luke during the Lutheran Invitational. His first cross-country race ever.

The 12-year old kept pushing though and just when you thought he would stop running and begin walking the course, Luke picked the pace back up. Once he got through the wooded area to head down the finishing straight, Luke put his kick in and finished strong.

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The Genesis United Cross Country team with some final strides prior to Tuesday’s Lutheran Invitational.

It was a proud moment because Luke had that same determined look at the end of Tuesday’s race as he did that night when he sat across the table from me and asked if he could go to practice.

If things continue with Ryan as they have after our bad run that same Sunday when Luke said he wanted to run, I am going to need my third-oldest son to get up speed quicker than expected.

Because at the rate Ryan’s going, he’s going to need a faster-running partner sooner rather than later.

I can’t think of a better one than Luke.

I’ll Take Three Words Over 2nd Place

Ryan and I competed in the 5th Annual Indianapolis Colts “Finish on the 50” 5k Saturday.

Last year, Ryan had seen it on the morning TV news program we watch. He became overly excited when he found out the finish line was literally on the 50-yard line of Lucas Oil Stadium.

Between the 500 Mini in May, the Sparkler Sprint on July 4th, and before we even knew about the start-up of the Genesis United Cross Country team, Ryan frequently asked me, “You signed us up for the Colts 5k yet?” “Dad, don’t forget the Colts 5k.”

Around Father’s Day is when I finally got us signed up for it. When I told Ryan, he replied, “yeah,” and rubbed his hands together like he always does when he gets excited.

Ryan’s runs lately have been like riding that proverbial roller coaster.

At the beginning of the week, Ryan has been nowhere close to the times he should be showing. He’s almost a minute slower off the pace on some runs.

Conversely, by the end of the week, Ryan’s way below the times he should post for those runs. That is if you’re going by the various training-pace calculators you can find on-line.

Last Tuesday, I broke down (after I promised myself I wouldn’t when Ryan began running for Genesis United) and ran with him at practice to make sure he got pushed. Even with me running with him, Ryan struggled on his tempo run. He was 20 seconds slower than the pace Coach Ben wanted.

Don’t even ask me about our long run the day after Ryan ran in the Greenwood Christian Academy Hokum Karem. I am trying to forget it even happened. It was that bad.

After Tuesday’s practice, I looked up Ryan’s log. No wonder he was slower than normal on Monday and Tuesday, he’d run six straight days. I immediately messaged Ben Houston for the explanation of the previous two days of practice. We decided Ryan would run easy on Thursday, rest Friday and then run the Colts 5k on Saturday.

Thursday’s run was supposed to be around a 9:00 pace for the five and half miles. Ryan ran it at 8:13 pace.

Amazing what 48 hours of rest can do for the legs, huh?

Saturday morning came and we went through our usual routine. Although I am trying to be like Summer Sanders’ Dad, I want to get Ryan into the habits Houston would expect him to do on a day of a cross-country race. We did our dynamic stretching and a one-mile warm up.

Once we finished our one-mile-warm up we saw my friend, Hannah’s, daughter. Vanessa is in her first of being a Colts cheerleader. I told her who I was and my connection to her mother and Uncle Nathan. Then I also told Vanessa when she talked to Hannah to say how thankful she is her mother, Uncle Nathan and I survived a game of chicken on a one-lane bridge back in 1990.

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First-year-Colts Cheerleader Vanessa with Ryan and I before Saturday’s Indianapolis Colts “Finish on the 50” 5k.

I set the virtual pacers on our Garmins for 7:15 pace. I told Ryan our goal was to get out to that pace and then get faster every mile. Then when the watches said 2.6 we were going to put the kick in for the finish on the field.

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Sunglasses on. It’s time to race.

Once I was done with the explanation of our race strategy, Ryan put on his sunglasses. That’s the sign to tell me he’s ready to go.

A few minutes later we counted down with the rest of the 4,500 runners and the race started. We headed east right into the sun on South Street then turned north on Pennsylvania Street.

We passed Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and before I could comment, Ryan said, “Look, the start/finish line for the 500 Miler Series and where the Pacers play.” As we approached New York Street both of our watches dinged. Ryan’s said we ran the first mile in 7:10 while mine was at 7:13.

We turned west on Vermont Street then south to Meridian and around the west side of “The Circle” and the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument (we will go north on Meridian and the east side of “The Circle” on Nov. 4 for the CNO Financial Group Indianapolis Half Marathon).

We turned west on Washington Street. There was a water stop just before our watches dinged for mile two. Ryan’s said 6:56. Even though Ryan and I were right next to each other the entire time, my watch showed a split of 7:18.

We headed south on West Street. I told Ryan his watch was our “official” time because there was no way mine was telling the right pace.

“Make sure we are 6:55 or faster now on that top number,” I commanded.

On the face of the watch, the top number tells us the pace and the bottom our distance.

“OK,” he replied.

We got to the north end of Lucas Oil Stadium on Missouri Street, I looked at my watch and it said 2.57 for the mileage. I asked Ryan what his said.

“Two-point-five-five,” he responded.

“When it gets to 2-point-6, it’s kick time,” I said.

“Got it,” Ryan said.

As we got to the south end of the stadium, Ryan said “two-point six.”

“It’s kick time. Let’s go! Go time!”

We made a hair-pin turn from Missouri Street to the south end of the parking lot of Lucas Oil Stadium. We headed back north to the field entrance. We got to the parking-lot gate when we were passed by a boy, who looked to be about Ryan’s age.

Ryan noticed him.

Ryan picked up his pace even more.

We caught the boy right at the beginning of the entrance to the field level of the stadium.

It’s a downward slope to field level. For whatever reason the boy slowed down. Ryan kept his stride and continued into the stadium. Once we were on the field, it was a mad dash between us to the finish line.

The Colts public-address announcer even said Ryan’s name as he neared the line.

“Here’s Ryan Rueff, 14-years old, from Greenwood, Indiana!” The announcement boomed all through Lucas Oil Stadium.

After we finished, we walked around the field. We even did some sprints between the 20-yard lines.

There were kiosks set up where you could use a QR-code reader on your phone to check your results. I didn’t have my phone that has service with me. I carry my old one because it fits in my shorts pocket to take pictures. One of the volunteers explained that the machines were also set up to type your bib number and get your results if you didn’t have a QR reader.

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Come on. You didn’t think I could run a Colts sponsored event and not wear something in Broncos colors.

As usual on Saturdays of these short races, I had planned with my manager at “The World on Time” to come in at least an hour late. I figured we’d check our times and see how far off the Garmins were since both appeared to freeze when we entered the stadium. We could leave because I seriously doubted either one of us placed in our age groups. I’d have a chance to be on time for work.

Both Garmins were way off on the time. I was even more wrong assuming one of us didn’t place in our age group.

I typed my number in first. It showed I had finished with a time of 21:39 – 76th overall and 8th in my age group. My Garmin stopped at 2.99 and had a time of 21:55.

Then I typed Ryan’s number. He had the same time of 21:39 (a new 5k PR for him) – 77th overall and 2nd in his group. His Garmin froze then must have regained its signal because it did have him at a full 5k but with a time of 22:42.

Work would have to wait as the awards ceremony was to begin at 9:30.

Ryan had set a new 5K PR by one second. He ran the Monumental 5K in 21:40 prior to his surgery last November. It was also 2:05 faster than he was at the Sparkler Sprint 5K on July 4.

We waited for the awards ceremony. After the best stroller and best costume winners were announced, Channel 4/Fox 59 sports reporter Larra Overton began announcing the age-group winners.

Once mentioned, the child went up to get their medal and shake the hand of former Indianapolis Colt Marlin Jackson.

Yes, the boy who had originally passed us and then Ryan passed at the entrance of the stadium finished third in Ryan’s age group.

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Ryan receiving his second-place medal from former Indianapolis Colt Marlin Jackson

When Ryan’s name was announced, as usual, he waved his hand to the crowd as they clapped. He quickly shook Jackson’s hand.

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We ran our one-mile-cool-down run around the stadium. Then it was off to Speedway to celebrate with the “World’s Largest Dr. Pepper” and doughnuts.

As I drove south on West Street back to Stately Rueff Manor, Ryan looked at me after he swallowed a bite of his doughnut followed by a slurp of Dr. Pepper.

“Did you see that kid, who passed us in the parking lot, when we got to the slope at the entrance of the field at the stadium?” Ryan asked as he rubbed his hands showing his excitement.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“He didn’t know how to go downhill without breaking his stride,” Ryan explained as he again rubbed his hands. “I just kept running like you’ve taught me when we run down the hills on Skyline and Brer Rabbit Drives. That’s when I knew I had him.”

There was a pause as Ryan took another drink of Dr. Pepper.

“Yeah,” Ryan said giggling and rubbing his hands.

I just looked back at him and smiled.

A few minutes later, Ryan would have me crying.

We got home and Ryan went upstairs to put his medals away and shower. I quickly got changed into my work clothes.

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There are three words for whatever reason people with Autism find hard to say. You know that they do though through their actions. You know they do with their kindness. You even know that they do sometimes even when they have a meltdown.

Whenever Wendy or I have told Ryan these three words, his usual response to us is “uh huh.”

It also reminds me a lot of my Father.

We will never know how much my Father was on the “Autism Spectrum.” I know he was somewhere on it. Remembering how he was and how similar his grandson is to him with his certain mannerisms makes it hard to believe John Rueff wasn’t on it. As I have written before, it’s why I am convinced Autism is hereditary.

Before I tell you the three words Ryan said to me as I walked out the door for work Saturday, understand, I know my father did too. My Dad always seemed to have a tough time saying it as well. Rest assured though, my father showed it a lot and still reveals it even after his unexpected death almost seven years ago.

I told Ryan I was leaving for work.

Then Ryan said those three words from upstairs that he’s never said to me before.

NEVER!

“Love you too.”

I cried all the way to work.

 

 

“So, now what?”

It’s what Ryan usually asks me after every run. At races, he normally doesn’t say those three words until we are in the car ready to head back home.

Ryan also asked it after every visit we had with Dr. Tentler.

We had a follow up appointment on Ryan’s orthotics last Thursday with Dr. Tentler. We like Dr. Tentler, but I am glad to report he said that meeting should be our last until Ryan’s orthotics need refurbished. That shouldn’t be for another two years.

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Ryan all thumbs up because hopefully this is the last time we see Dr. Tentler in his office for a long time.

My standard answer typically is after a run, “Well, we’ll stretch, go in the house, clean up, have breakfast and continue on with the rest of our day.”

After a race – “We go get you that super huge Dr. Pepper and celebrate the accomplishment of finishing another race.

Once we are finished at Dr. Tentler’s office – “we get doughnuts.” Sometimes it’s, “We go back home. You do your school work and I get ready for work.”

Every so often though I’ll look at him with a grin on my face and try to do my best Rodney Dangerfield as Al Czervik in “Caddyshack” impersonation.

“So, what? So, let’s dance.”

That’s exactly what I’ll start doing along with singing the lyrics to the Journey hit “Anyway You Want It.” Of course, that’s the song which played in the scene when Dangerfield said it on the golf course while Judge Smails (played by Ted Knight) once again sliced his shot from the fairway.

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Al Czervik says “Let’s dance.”

Sometimes I do it when we’ve had a great run. More notably, I do it when the run was tough and we struggled through to get it done. On those runs as Meredith Grey says on “Grey’s Anatomy” we have to “dance it out.”

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Whether it’s been a good day or a bad day just “dance it out.”

 

Regardless of when I break out my dance moves – that would make members of New Edition jealous – I get that teenage roll of the eyes from Ryan.

With about 24 weeks before CNO Financial Monumental Half Marathon Training, it does beg to ask, “So, now what?”

In his heyday, Steve Spurrier had his “Fun-n-Gun” offense as he tormented Peyton Manning and the rest SEC on a regular basis. Well, the Runnin’ Rueffs will have our “Fun-n-Run” while building base mileage for the next 10 weeks. Then on July 30, we will begin training for our debut in the CNO Financial Monumental Half Marathon on Nov. 4 here in Indianapolis.

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Spurrier in his heyday with the Florida Gators. Did you know he’s the only coach to be undefeated against Peyton Manning?

Since the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon, we’ve been in somewhat of a recovery phase. I think that’s mainly been me more than Ryan. We’ve run a couple of days back-to-back and then rested. Then ran a day then took a day off. Nothing intense. Just nice easy runs on our regular routes.

As we build base mileage leading up to July 30, we can mix up the runs. We’ve already made plans for some of our running friends to join us when they want to have a relaxing run.

We also will probably see the Center Grove Cross Country team on some Mondays as we go to run the hills of Skyline Drive and Brer Rabbit Drive. We will probably throw in some speed workouts especially my favorite – mailbox fartleks.

Although the training plan is put together for Monumental, I will probably still spend the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend making tweaks to the plan my group of advisors suggest while listening to the “greatest spectacle in radio broadcasting” – the Indianapolis 500 – on my deck.

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The annual tradition of putting a fall-race plan together while listening to the Indianapolis 500 on radio.

After our experience running the Monumental 5k last year, Ryan and I are excited to see what we can do in the half marathon race at Monumental.

Ryan’s probably thinking another PR, but for now numbers are the farthest thing from my mind. We will have a better grasp of that after we run our only race between now and the Monumental Half – the Indianapolis Colts 5k on Aug. 26 (Probably won’t be a good idea for me to wear my Broncos gear that day).

Like the Miler Series races, that run will give us a good indication of where we are after the first month of training for the Monumental Half. It will also give us a chance to see if Ryan has figured out how to avoid being “boxed in” like he was during various points of the 500 Mini.

Sure, things will become a little more serious once the calendar reads July 30, but it doesn’t mean the fun has to stop.

If you are a regular reader to this blog and live near us or by Skyline Drive and Brer Rabbit Drive don’t be shocked if you see us on a run and we do nothing more than “dance it out.”

 

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It’s Almost Go Time

To the average person and even to some runners, Saturday’s weather forecast for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon looks miserable.

For Ryan – it looks fantastic.

For the first time he’ll get to run a race in his favorite weather condition of rain. He probably will be the only one who will have a smile on his face of every race picture that gets posted from MarathonFoto.

Unlike my first half marathon when the conditions were similar to what they will be Saturday, I’m mentally prepared this time for the weather. I only wished it would be a little warmer than expected.

I am excited about Saturday’s race for a number reasons. We get to meet other runners from the Coach Jenny Group. We are running a half injury free (unlike the Mill Race Half Marathon last September). We get to see how much the orthotics have improved Ryan’s running these last two weeks.

Although, I do believe it’s a combination of both the orthotics and beginning the IronStrength workout videos from Runner’s World and Dr. Jordan Metzl. When I look through the training log leading up to Saturday’s race you can see a difference in Ryan’s times not only when he began running with the orthotics, but the workouts as well. Overall, it’s about a 30-second difference in his easy runs. Easy meaning as we run I ask him if he feels comfortable and if he could still push it for the last half mile at the end.

 

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Wrapping up one of our final runs before this Saturday’s OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.

 

Speaking of times.

The last week several people have asked me the time goal I have for Saturday’s race. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have one. That since Ryan’s return my only goal would be for us to get to the starting line injury free and finish the Mini strong.

As always, I have two numbers. I might even have three numbers. The two set in stone are what I realistically think we can do and if everything goes perfect. Even with the pending weather conditions, the latter remains in tact.

You’ll have to read my post on Sunday to find out what the numbers were I had for us.

Saturday completes Ryan’s comeback from his surgery. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when he returned in February. I am thankful for the running community especially Coach Ben, Coach Tad, Coach Jenny, Coach Ron, and Coach Howard for guiding me on how to slowly bring Ryan back. Without their insight I would have had no idea how to properly train Ryan for Saturday.

I’m also excited because the day before the race we don’t have 20 zillion things to do. Wendy canceled Ryan’s speech therapy session. She can take Andrew and Luke to meet their TrailLife Group to go to Red River Gorge for their camping trip. This means all Ryan and I have to do Friday is get up and run a casual three miles in the morning. We can relax until it’s time to go downtown to the expo. We’ll meet our friends and take in all the ambiance at the convention center before heading home for dinner and watching McFarland, USA before heading to bed.

Regardless if we hit either one of the times I have, this weekend is mainly about one thing – fun.

IMPORTANT READ!

Late last week Runner’s World published an article by Alison Wade about people with autism and the effects running has had. Here’s the link to the report – http://www.runnersworld.com/general-interest/for-many-with-autism-running-is-a-sport-that-fits

By far, it is the best article I have ever read about autism and running. We have experienced everything with Ryan most of the runners profiled in the article have dealt with in the report.

Since Ryan began running with me in March of 2015, he has improved in school. Speaking of combinations. It’s not only the running but during his 18 months at Brain Balance where we have seen the change.

Before running and Brain Balance, Ryan was at the mental function of a 3-year old when it came to his school work. Now, he’s almost at the sixth-grade level. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.

It’s like Edie Brannigan says about her son, Mikey, when he began running and the change for the positive it made in his school work.

“I watched it happen,” Edie Brannigan said. “During those two years, something shifted, something opened up, and his thinking became useful in the way of academics.”

 

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Mikey Brannigan

 

Two weeks ago was Ryan’s final exam in math. We hadn’t run or woke up to do IronStrength the day of the test (should have planned better with Wendy and did some form of exercise). I was in my office and heard Ryan yell out of frustration. I quickly went into our school room and asked what was wrong.

“He’s having trouble focusing,” Wendy said.

Instantly, I got Ryan out of his chair. We did some jumping jacks and squats. After he caught his breath and sat back done, he went right to work on the test. He scored 100 percent.

Sometimes Ryan reminds me of Harold Sylvester’s character, D.C., in the 1979 movie “FastBreak.” Sylvester’s character needs to pass his English exam to stay eligible for the basketball team to play in the final game of the season. Gabe Kaplan, who played coach David Greene, and the rest of the team try to help D.C. cram for the exam. Unfortunately, in the classroom setting D.C. doesn’t pass the exam.

Kaplan then has an idea of having the professor ask the questions while D.C. shoots baskets in the gym. They go to the gym and the professor asks questions from the test. After each shot, D.C. answers the questions as the professor records it on a tape recorder.

In the end, D.C. passes and can play in the big game.

 

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Harold Sylvester as D.C. and Gabe Kaplan as Coach David Greene in the 1979 film “FastBreak.”

 

Ryan’s the same way sometimes. When he runs and I ask him questions about school, especially math, the answers roll right off his tongue without any hesitation. Now if we could find a way for him to write complete sentences when he runs Ryan would be an academic machine.

Ryan’s also a lot like Alex Schneider, the non-verbal-autistic man who runs marathons, when it comes to not feeling pain. If it hadn’t been for Coach Ben noticing the hitch in Ryan’s stride or him asking how much farther we had left on a run back in the fall, we would have not known the extent of his injury with the subungual osteochondroma.

Just like Ryan, Schneider doesn’t communicate he’s in pain.

“[Alex] almost seems impervious to pain,” McDermott said. “He almost has this muted sense of pain where unless you see the blood, you don’t realize he’s hurt. So we try to exercise caution [in his training].”

 

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Twin autistic brothers Alex and Jamie Schneider.

 

Even after the surgery, Ryan didn’t take a single dose of pain medication to relieve any pain. When he returned I asked every quarter mile. Now I ask about every mile. I am waiting for the run when he looks at me and says, “Stop asking! I’ll tell you when I am in pain. Until I do, just run!”

Ryan also doesn’t have the tantrums like he used to before Brain Balance and running. He is definitely more confident in himself and his abilities. Since that morning when Wendy and I both ran into the living room, he has stopped spinning completely. To replace the spinning to an extent, Ryan waddles like a penguin and shakes his head, but he doesn’t even do that as much as he did spinning. Matter of fact, since the weather turned warmer back in March, Ryan hasn’t even been swinging. Not once!

Like all the others runners profiled in the article by Wade, Ryan has found acceptance through the running community. It has also led to him being more outgoing in other social areas especially his youth group activities on the weekends.

“When he comes here, he’s like one of the guys,” his Thursday night Bible study leader, who also is a runner, said recently. “He answers the questions when it’s his turn and has great interaction. Some times he gets off point, but that’s OK. He’s talking and understands the lessons.”

All of it showing we both have come along way since that Sunday morning in the pick-up line for Ryan’s Sunday school class at Mount Pleasant Church when he had a melt down and the gentleman behind me asked, “why can’t you control your son?”