Looking back at what we've written after past Publix races we could likely repeat the same words again. We often seem to repeat that “this year’s race was bigger, better and one amazingly, unforgettable experience.
This year, however, I would add the sentiment of thanks. Thank you all for your trust in our work and our mission. Thank you for believing in us and lending your legs, your heart and your spirit for the betterment of yourself and your fellow athlete. Thank you for helping to raise more than $100k in support of our mission and the remainder of our event costs this year.
What struck me most about this year’s event was hanging back with Kyle and witnessing the hard work of all our years as an organization spread out across the road. When we turned at mile 1.5 to look back behind us it was a sea of athletes. With a twenty-minute head start under darkness all you could see for nearly a mile was a wave of KPF athletes and volunteers, all running for one cause. All running together. We are all brothers and sisters.
We interviewed a handful of our athletes following the race so we could share their thoughts about this incredible day. Jennifer Cooper, from the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and a volunteer every year of our partnership, felt a sense of duty when running with her athlete. “I didn’t want to let our athlete down,” she shared. “What a tremendous honor that families trust us with their child for over two hours over 13.1 miles.”
She continued, “The crowd was awesome as were the fast athletes! Everyone was cheering on our team and athlete. My highlight was hearing our athlete YELL out each mile marker and watching his mother film him walking across the finish line under his own power.”
Long time KPF athlete and a speaker at the Publix dinner, Jessica Minton was in the zone on race morning and seemed to take the event in stride. “It wasn’t the big thing for me. The one thing that made a huge difference is that my focus this year was on my running people. It was Coleman’s first half-marathon. He didn’t even realize they would have aid stations. So, this year, it was about Coleman.
Minton, the second recipient of prestigious Jake Vinson Award routed her teammate to the finish line. “Around mile 10, he started struggling, so my goal was to encourage him. Just a 5k to go! We slowed down after mile 10, but I assured him that we were in this together and that TOGETHER, we wheel!!”
Longtime friend of Kyle and me and volunteer pusher, Art Brady, was awestruck at the magnitude of the event. “I was in amazement at how much had to come together to make everything work. The pride of knowing that all eyes were on the athletes and the impact that this had not only on themselves but on all of those watching.”
Brady added, “The corner in Virginia Highlands was amazing as usual and literally felt like we were pulled through the corner! My most memorable part however was being able to see the joy and shared celebration on all of the athlete's faces regardless of the role they played. Everyone was on the same team and were virtually equals!”
John and Diane Reynolds will be sharing their thoughts in an upcoming blog post but in the interim had this to say. “We are still basking in the victory of last week's race. As Jason crossed the finish line he yelled "I won first place!"
“For a number of years, Jason has always enjoyed being a part of a team and having the opportunity to wear his team colors, t-shirt, hat, etc. The Kyle Pease Foundation gives Jason that fantastic team spirit and belonging that is so important to him. Many individuals with physical challenges are often left out from team and sports events, so a race such as the Publix Half Marathon far exceeded our hopes and dreams for Jason. He IS a part of the Team.”
Diane continued, “For Jason, the crowd reaction was especially impactful at the end of the race. In sight of the finish line, Jason gets out of his chair and with his team members walks, runs and dances across the finish line. The crowd recognizes this is special and cheers him on with great enthusiasm. As parents, we were impressed with the support and encouragement he was given during those final moments of the race.”
“The pre-race excitement leading up to the start was so very memorable. By the start of the race, we had gained trust in Jason’s Team to carry him through. Once they were racing, we knew he would be happy and thrilled with the movement and company his team provided. He cheers them on and keeps them moving until they cross the finish line and earn their “bananas!”
For this special event, Kyle and I truly thank the Atlanta Track Club for making us part of Running City USA and the countless volunteers that helped to accommodate 60 differently-abled athletes. Inclusion is what we are all about and to be included with these incredible athletes is a wonderful and emotional experience.
Coming into Virginia Highlands, our rally corner was deafening. It was like running through a tunnel of enthusiasm. The smiles there were almost as wide as the finish line. We thank you all for, quite literally. "Walking with Kpeasey".
Together WE Wheel!