THE CONVERSATION

Ainsley's Story Part 5

Many more moments would continue to take our breath away over 12 months following Ainsley and Briley’s first 5K together.  Serving as a trigger was a conversation I shared with Dick during our weekend in Holland.  While Ainsley and Rick enjoyed lunch together, she actually spent the majority of the day by his side, Dick and I enjoyed small-talk about our military careers.  I mentioned to him that I was feeling guilty about not being able to run the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) with Ainsley because my wife and I thought a five hour race would be too much for her to sit through.  Dick quickly turned his head, looked me in the eyes, and with his deep Boston accent said, “What do you mean you can’t run the Marine Marathon without her; how long did she sit during the drive to Massachusetts from Virginia Beach?”  He made his point and his message was clear, “YES YOU CAN” run the Marine Corps Marathon with your daughter!  Of course, now we needed to gain permission from the MCM Race Director and perhaps more challenging, begin training.  Seeking permission began with this e-mail to the MCM staff:    

Mr. Dick Hoyt recommended that I contact your office on a matter very important to me and my family.  I am an active duty Marine Officer with 17 years of service and am finally signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon (my first, and possible last).  I say this will possibly be my last because the only reason I began running in 5K, 10K, and half-marathon road races is because of my terminally-ill daughter, Ainsley.  In 2007, Ainsley was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD).  Shortly after this, the Corps sent my family from Camp Lejeune to Virginia Beach.  In 2008, Ainsley's physical therapist convinced us to participate with Team Hoyt VB (www.teamhoytvb.com) and since then I have pushed Ainsley in nearly 15 road races, including the VA Beach Rock 'n Roll half marathon last year.  Ainsley cannot walk, talk, or move on her own, but when the wind blows in her face on the race track, she smiles the most wonderful smile - as if to say, "Daddy, go faster, this is fun!". Ainsley and I had the honor of visiting Dick and Rick Hoyt's home in Holland, Massachusetts, last weekend and the MCM came up in conversation.  I mentioned I was signed up to run it in October.  But, like I told him....I am feeling guilty about running this race without Ainsley.  She is the reason I run road races and to do one without her would not be right - just like being a career Marine and not running the MCM is not right!  Ainsley will be 8 years old in December (2011) and her illness is rapidly progressing. We understand that only 7 cases of INAD are known in the United States and most children with this diagnosis pass on before reaching 10 years of age. 

This long email is to ask: Might "Team Ainsley" (of Team Hoyt VB) be able to run in the MCM?  We understand the need to stay out of the way of other runners and promise to stay to the far right.  To be clear, she would not be riding in a 'stroller', but rather in a THVB ‘jogger chair’, as Rick Hoyt often points out.  If approved by MCM to push her, Ainsley's former Physical Therapist (who has completed the MCM) is willing to assist me with pushing, as well as to be with us for extra safety and adjusting reasons.  I noticed the MCM wheelchair division starts at 0745.  Our intent, if possible, would be to start with that group, but not to interfere with them; trust me, we are a 'no-maintenance' team and only require your permission.  Team Hoyt's motto is "Yes You Can" - and we hope you can say the same.   me in the eyes and said, "How long did she sit during the drive from VA Beach to my house here in Southern Mass?".....His message was clear, YES YOU CAN, and the rest remains one of the great experiences of my life me in the eyes and said, "How long did she sit during the drive from VA Beach to my house here in Southern Mass?".....His message was clear, YES YOU CAN, and the rest remains one of the great experiences of my life.Thank you for your time and Semper Fidelis!

To my amazement and perhaps in a tribute to Dick and Rick Hoyt, whose Boston Marathon qualifier was the 1981 MCM, my request was approved within 25 minutes! And with that, our 16-week marathon training plan began

Ainsley's Angel Story Continued Part 6:  http://sharedstory.org/story-67

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