Today we are featuring an inspiring group who was supposed to run the Med City Marathon last weekend. Ryan and Audra were going to be taking turns pushing Audra's 19 year old daughter, Erica, who has Cerebral Palsy as a result of complications at birth.
Audra started running in 2011 and has done a number of races over the last 9 years, including Monster Dash half, Whistlestop half, Twin Cities 10 mile, both Ragnar Road and Ragnar Trail, Fargo Marathon and Grandma's Marathon (her second full marathon and first attempt to qualify for Boston).
Erica is confined to a wheelchair and uses a communication device to communicate with people. Audra says she is, by far, one of the wittiest and most loving people you could ever meet. Despite her disability, Erica has a zest for life and loves to be involved in everything going on around her.
"She kept asking if she could go for a run with me so I eventually bought an adaptive jogging stroller," says Audra, "We've done a couple of local 5Ks over the past couple of years. She's always asking if she can join me in the bigger races (10 mile and half marathons) but I had thought that wasn't something I would be able to accomplish; the jogger stroller I have isn't the best and I'm basically pushing 1.5 times my weight between her and the weight of the jogging stroller. Through discussions with Ryan and his offer to help us complete a longer distance race, we did our first half marathon last fall! She had so much fun and absolutely loved it! Needless to say, she's hooked on racing."
With Med City being postponed until the fall, at a date that conflicts with both Audra's first opportunity to run the Boston Marathon and Ryan's Ironman, the virtual option to complete the Med City Marathon is the only option that will work for them. "This race is all for Erica and we know that she will be missing out on all the excitement and hoopla of race day; the race atmosphere, the cheering spectators, the thrill of crossing the finish line. We are doing our best to find ways to make this virtual run fun and memorable for her so we've invited some friends out to help cheer her on (with social distancing guidelines applying)." Says Audra
Ryan first started running in 2016 when on a vacation at a water park he decided he wanted to make a change. "For the first time in my life I no longer was comfortable with taking off my shirt, " he says. "What started out as a goal to be able to run a 5K without passing out, lit a spark deep inside. That following year I did my first half marathon, full marathon and Tough Mudder. Along the way I met a triathlon group and learned how to swim. Last year, I completed my first full Ironman and will be attempting another this year. During my first half marathon I was exposed to several groups of runners (Angels) pushing people in wheel chairs (Captains). I remember running by them feeling so moved to see people who didn't look any different than myself helping others to achieve goals. I vowed after that race to try and find out some more information on the group and to be back the following year a part of it." The name of the organization is called My Team Triumph, and he saw truck parked at a grocery store in his town, so he did some investigation. He found out through their website that the grocery store was a place where they met each week on Wednesdays and did training runs. As a part of doing an actual race with them, you're required to do at least one training run. "I remember going there that first Wednesday evening and being so nervous." He says. "At that point I had little to no exposure with varying levels of disability and was terrified I would feel embarrassed or so out of place I'd use my running skills to head the opposite direction. What started out as a training run turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Everyone was so welcoming! I left that night with a full heart and a picture of myself that hangs on my office wall to this day reminding me never to run away from new experiences. I was welcomed back the following week and the week after that and the week after that. I quickly learned that this organization is about way more than running. In fact, the weekly training runs in most cases mean more than the racing. It's a time for everyone to get together and celebrate inclusion and friendship. It's a time to grill out, go for a run and just be happy! MTT has been life changing for me!"
Ryan met Audra in 2017. She helped him get over his nerves before that first training run with the group. Her advice was simple. "She told me to be myself and to simply talk to, and treat the captains the way I'd treat anyone else." He says he will be forever grateful to her for those simple words. Together, the two of them plotted the possibility of sharing a race with Erica together where they could team up to share the pushing. Ryan talked to MTT this last fall and they agreed to let me borrow a chair for what would be Erica's first race. The Hot Cider Half Marathon was the race! Everything was perfect that day! It was such a joy seeing the smiles on Audra and Erica's faces, Ryan remembers. After that race, Ryan suggested the possibility of doing a full marathon. Med City was going to be the race! With Audra training for Boston and Ryan doing Ironman, they thought they would be in prime shape. First Boston was rescheduled, and then Med City. When Med City rescheduled, they quickly learned that it happened to be the weekend before Boston was rescheduled, and the weekend before Ironman. Unfortunately, they had to take the virtual option, "but we're doing everything we can to make it special." says Ryan. Team Erica will be hitting the pavement this Saturday, May 30th at 8 AM in Red Wing. They will be starting at Dressen's Saloon on the Pioneer State Trail. Their course will be an out and back using both the Pioneer and Cannon Valley Trail. They plan to have different groups at intersections doing some cheering and have some fun treats planned for Erica at several of their aid stations. Please join Terraloco in congratulating this amazing trio and wishing them good luck this Saturday in their race!