My Experience In a Virtual “Team” Race to Celebrate the ADA 30th Anniversary

Amy smiling and standing on path in park wearing her "Daring Sisters" turquoise t-shirt

Joining the Team

I love to run. In the summer, I run at the high school track. The springy track surface makes the perfect running base for me. So I was excited when I found a notice on the “Daring Sisters” Facebook page recruiting for their team in a walk, run, wheelchair, or bike event. The ‘team’ is a group of women with vision loss who attend yearly retreats in Bountiful, Utah. Becky Andrews initiated this event to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

I responded with, “Count me in! “I’ll take the T-shirt, too.” The shirt is beautiful turquoise with the logo on the front right side. It has seven women in block figures in an open-ended circle – open to show inclusiveness. “Daring Sisters” appears in the center with a smaller half-circle of hearts printed in white. We all loved the design. I am wearing it in the picture at the top of this post, and our group is shown in the image below.

picture of Daring Steps team members with logo in the middle in shape of horseshoe made up of images of people holding hands. Has quote from shirt: “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our story, we get to write a brave new ending.” - Brene Brown. Picture created by Sarah McManick

Planning for the Run

I enjoyed meeting the others through Zoom and hearing their enthusiasm. We shared plans on how to participate in the event. Some ordered a special handmade teal tether for running with a partner (guide). I planned to run alone on the track.

While preparing for the 5K running laps at the track, I challenged myself by running with a guide. It might help me run further, and I would have to get in better shape. Could I do a marathon? Yes! I dared myself to be more courageous.

Virtual Race and Guide

Rachel, my niece, runs marathons and does triathlons. She ran a virtual race earlier this year and said it could be run anywhere at any agreed-on time. But the goal is fixed. My niece and her running buddy run much faster than I do. Rather than ask them to slow down to run with me, I decided to ask how to find a guide. They suggested recruiting through a local Facebook group since runners like to help each other.

Robin responded, saying she wasn’t “a runner” but was willing to help me. I wondered how we would do it since I had never run with a guide, and she had never been a guide or a runner. But I was excited, becoming more prepared each day with my workouts.

We were more united and enthusiastic by the third time our team talked on Zoom. The team now had participants from Ohio to Oregon. Some planned to run the marathon; others the 5K. Some wanted to walk with babies, guide dogs, or partners. We decided to celebrate the ADA at our own pace in our surroundings.

Becky instructed, “For the next week reply all and let us know when you’ll be running/walking/hiking/wheeling.” We agreed to send photographs and cheer each other on.

My 5K Virtual Race Experience

I waited too long to order a tether. That worked out since Robin, and I were not experienced with tethers or the art of racing with guides. We agreed to walk locally in a park in Lake City. That would be more challenging for me since I was unfamiliar with the area and would need guidance.

Our walk took place in May. Just before entering the park, I saw Dairy Oasis, a Mom and Pop ice cream joint, and promised myself a cone or hot fudge sundae afterward.

Robin had planned the route to ensure it was 3.1 miles for a 5K. Robin told me she walked fast, so I thought we were well-matched. But she meant like a deer flashing through the woods! To keep up, I had to speedwalk. But I liked that challenge.

Robin verbally guided me to let cars pass and warned me to stay off the berm of the road to avoid falling. She noticed that I unconsciously “played with” my sunglasses. I had to wear sunglasses in the extreme sun to avoid stumbling in the bright light. But I had to take them off in the shade to see where I was going. Robin kept me safe throughout our two-hour hike. I had to really focus, so it was hard to talk at times.

When Robin took a break, I slowed my breathing and drank water from my thermos. The length of 3.1 miles was not unusual for me, especially in mid-summer, but focusing on the unfamiliar area wore me out. Nevertheless, I was glad I had challenged myself differently. My only regret was that the Dairy Oasis had closed at the busiest time of the day – 7 pm! So I forfeited my dream of a hot fudge sundae or a black raspberry & vanilla twist on a cone. Blah!

Team Camaraderie

I was most touched by the enthusiastic emails adding camaraderie and connection to my team. New emails constantly arrived from over forty-six states! I received notes like: “Happy Saturday, My lovely Daring Sisters! On my way to San Diego Seaport Village boardwalk to complete my run!”; “I know you can do it,”; “Take it easy,”;  “Enjoy the journey of it all,” and  “Yay! Go, Sisters!” They sent wonderful picture descriptions, “…standing amongst jagged rocks. Semi-choppy water behind and a sailboat in the distance. The sun is making its final appearance as it sets for the evening. Yet sky is still shining!” They discussed surprises, “…found an amazing discovery. A heritage Giant Sequoia. Beautiful”; and revised plans, “We planned on a walk, but we ended up on bikes with the grandkids!”

Staying in touch with other women facing similar challenges with vision loss reminds me we can be strong together, and the empowerment gained from connecting with peers helps to keep us positive and moving forward in life. 

This participant sums up what we all felt: “Daring Sisters, I am incredibly proud to be a part of this amazing team of sisters. I have loved all your photos & updates about your walks. You rock!”