Racing Towards Dreams

 

The warmth of Sunday morning rained down on those of us who lined the roadside. It was still so early that there remained the crisp in the air that creates morning dew. My friend perched herself on a three stump as we waited for the first rush of marathon athletes to go by. The London Marathon actually doubles back on itself by circling around my neighborhood, giving our community one of the best opportunities in town to see the event. We were headed to watch early, planning to be long gone before the bulk of the runners came by. I had my eye on one pack of racers in particular, the wheelchair women’s division. My childhood friend and teammate, Barney, who had just taken forth the week before at the Boston Marathon, flew to London a few days ago to compete on the London course as well. We had met in the lobby of her hotel Friday afternoon so that I could interview her for a documentary I’m producing. She told me the approximate time she would be coming by during the race on Sunday. Until that point, I hadn’t seen Barney for over fourteen years. Back then I was a Paralympic hopeful, having just broken several records for track and field in both the US and Canada. My day dreams consisted of gold medals and at night my coaches sent me to bed with either a discus, a shot put, or a basketball, depending on what time of year it was. Barney, who was about four years my senior, was always one division above mine, and was one of the few other girls who could hold her own with the boys. This naturally made her my very own personal idol. And for years my love for sports was all consuming. Then as quickly and as passionately as the love began, it stopped. I was swept away to other activities, which eventually drew me into the arts, and pursuing my dreams here in London. These theatrical and literary aspirations were something which were always built inside of me, even during the long hours spent on the spongy track at the naval base where I practiced. It was just that back then my opportunity to pursue those dreams and the tools I could use were insufficient. And now they are not. When my life changed, when new opportunity was granted, Barney and I went in opposite directions. Which, half a lifetime later, put us on the same road in the middle of the same city, at the same point it time. Just for a second, our dreams touched, and bounced off each other, going back to our separate directions and giving us both more momentum in the process. When I was still a teenager, still veraciously collecting medals and living off power bars washed down with Gatorade, my father put a poster on my wall that read “celebrate the freedom to race towards your dreams.” It’s still a stretch for most people’s imagination to think of someone in a wheelchair traveling the world as a champion marathon athlete. In many ways its stranger still to think of someone like me in film or writing plays for London’s West End, and yet here we were. The love, the faith, the training we received where were younger gave us the freedom to race boldly towards are dreams, even in the early days when it seemed like our dreams were impossible, or we couldn’t figure out what we were born to do. Somehow we always knew we had the basic skills it took to work towards any dream when had. The details we would figure out along the way. From over the horizon a van appeared that read “PACE CAR, WOMEN’S WHEELCHAIR DIVISION.” Unexpectedly a knot came up in my throat, the kind you get when you know you’re looking at life at its most foundational, when you can reach the very touchstone of life and know that its solid. For a split second she whizzed towards me, her carbon wheels thundering against the road beneath her. I shouted her name as she passed, and then she was gone up the road ahead of her. And I turned and went back to my street, ready for a day of racing towards dreams of my own.

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