It is an honor to be the coach of any runner. To have that position of trust is a big deal. Runners love to win. Runners want their training to lead to special moments. It is an important position and I do not take it for granted. In the case of these athletes, it is a double honor. They are winners and athletes.
Runners at the race expo for the Farragut Half Marathon were able to sign up for a chance to win a 12-Week customized training program designed by me. I had intended to award this prize to just one winner, but that is not what happened. All of the names were written on little slips of paper sitting in a big bowl. When the time came, I turned my head away and reached in to pick the winner. At first I had to many pieces of paper in my grasp, so I shook my hand gently until only one slip of paper remained. It only had one name on it: Melissa Peplow. I knew immediately that I had given the plan away to two people. You see, Melissa is 1/2 of a running team; two people that run as one. Melissa and her running partner Vicky Wallace register for races separately. They wear two bib numbers. Still, they run as one. Two bodies on three legs and a wheelchair. Each runner serves the other. Melissa is legally blind. Sometimes she can see things clearly, but other times she can’t see much of anything. Vickie serves as Melissa’s eyes. Vicky suffered a stroke and presently only has control over the right side of her body. Vicky wants to use her one good leg to be a runner. Melissa serves Vicky by pushing the chair from behind. Two runners working together so that each can give it their full effort. Every time they finish a race they are winners regardless of what the final standings say.
It should not need to be said, but I will say it anyway: these ladies are athletes. Not everyone believes that. The fact that each one has some assistance from the other is enough for a few naysayers to complain. Any true athlete, however, will recognize Vicky and Melissa as fellow athletes. They are not heroes. They are not zeroes. They are athletes the same as you and I. They have grit. They have goals. Both of them are facing huge challenges. Both are out there training to improve their performance. Both of them give all they have during a race. The vast majority of runners are not racing each other as much as they are racing against themselves, trying to get better. That is what an athlete does.
Every athlete I coach faces challenges. Every athlete inspires me as they find new and intersting ways to overcome those challenges. These two are no different. Yesterday I met with Vicky and Melissa to have our initial coaching session. I observed their form, discussed their training habits, discussed their goals, and talked about how to move forward with developing their training plan. That is what I do with all athletes. I usually meet with runners one-on-one. These ladies run as one. I looked at their form as individuals and as a team. I am giving them strength training to do as individuals and run training to do as a team. That is what they need to do to improve. That is what they want. They are not trying to beat you in a race. They are in a race with their limitations… and they are winning.
You can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/With-a-Will-There-is-a-Way/581877085167519.
“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”
— P. Mark Taylor
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