Taking part in the Barcelona marathon with my daughter Athena was a wonderful experience. From the beginning, the preparation of the "teams" around the physically disabled, transmitted encouraging good feelings...
Groups of 10 or 12 people uniformed, good-humored, prepared and organized to ensure that one team member, who is in a wheelchair, makes it to the goal. Altogether praiseworthy: what solidarity! All for one and one for all. It’s never been better applied. And when they saw that we were going alone, perplexed, they offered us their help. That was great.
But the truth is that with the starting shot we got to the front and were accelerating to reach a father who had two children in a stroller and went ahead of us. The pace was still sustainable despite the effort we were making to put us on first place and, once we reached this small target, we were "opening" the race. Indeed, we were on the lead and it’s quite a curious sensation: no one in the front, everyone is cheering. Exactly, everyone cheered for us and called us by our names. Then I realized that we had the name on the dorsal and it stuck in the abdomen so that everyone could "know". And what a joy, what proximity, what heat, so many people coming to us from all sides.
At this moment I saw Atena as the star, she was the protagonist. For the first time, people, instead of looking away, uncomfortable with a disabled child, looked at her with admiration, and it showed.
We enjoyed the first place on the race for seven or eight kilometers. From there on, runners began to pass us, the fastest first, the second fastest later. And also encouraged us, valued our effort, particularly concerned about Atena and her personal struggle, a struggle that goes beyond than completing a race, a fight that exits every day, from the moment she sets a foot on the floor and discovers that she cannot walk ordinary, a fight that is her life.
And that’s my point. Finishing the marathon is the aim of the race itself, as Pheidippides: reaching the goal is everything.
Whether it’s running, walking, or in a wheelchair: the goal is to find pleasure while doing it, living it.
Finishing with a good time, full of pride, the less fit runners feel astonished. And to think that I ran my last marathon 30 years ago and I'm back to doing it for Atena. I've done it despite the medical prescription, I have the meniscus removed, just for mention small things to make our race more heroic. Actually, nothing can hide how important it was for Atena to live a very, very special, very, very emotional day.
And this is all the happiness of a daughter, my daughter, a 12 year-old disabled girl as a result of the nth column operation.
And with her and our participation in the marathon of Barcelona it shows that not everyone is lucky in life. And we are not talking about winning the lottery, we are talking about health, actually, the most important thing in life for any person. Unfortunately we just realize this when we need it. But how must Atena be feeling? She, who since her birth, has lived with serious health problems; she has lived with dysfunctions, multiple surgeries, complications, unsolvable problems...? She who could, cycle and walk normally, one day enter the hospital thinking that she would get her Kyphoscoliosis acute fixed and turned into an irreversible paralysis in the legs? How can you take it? How not to become depressed? She’s only 12 and her future is in a wheelchair, without autonomy, without the possibility of experiencing things that others who do not appreciate how lucky they are, do.
And this is why our race makes sense: for the first time since she was prostrated in her chair, people who saw realized her prowess, her effort to live experiences as those of non-disabled. And her race is that of all disabled: not everyone can walk, not everyone can run, but everyone deserves to be happy, everyone deserves health.
We are all like Atena, a person struggling day by day, facing the most painful importunes, being able to build her own happiness.
Maybe we cannot change the disability, but we can change our way of living it.
And in this spirit we want to contribute our bit. These groups need psychological and medical help, physiotherapy, basic research... Let's help with our cheers, thoughts, time and with the best of our smiles.