My husband and son competed in a marathon recently.
They trained hard and raced harder, crossing the finish line after 26.2 gruelling miles within a single second of their desired race time.
As a wife and mom, I thought my chest would burst with pride as I screamed and cheered until my face was beet colored and my voice like sandpaper.
To some marathon competitors, organizers, and onlookers the feat that my son and particularly my husband achieved was even more extraordinary than simply running for over twenty six miles.
Did I mention my son is only six years old? He also happens to be unable to walk due to a medical condition that has taken his ability to move his body or speak.
My husband ran the race pushing my son in a jogging stroller.
Throughout the course of the race, my husband was met with many comments about the “easy” role my son had or wonderings about how my husband felt in regard to bearing the brunt of the hard work.
While it may have appeared that my husband was working harder than my son, that was far from the case.
In their defence, what people saw was a man running a marathon while pushing more than sixty pounds of child, stroller, and equipment.
However, what they didn’t see were the months before the race when my husband would not have risen from bed to train in the wee hours but for the shrieks of my son calling out to him and reminding him of his commitment.
Onlookers didn’t see the training runs when my husband ran many miles farther than planned because my son’s persistent squeals of delight and encouragement urged him onward.
Fellow marathoners didn’t see my husband doubled over with cramps at mile fourteen of the race when he caught my son’s eye and they together chose to push on through their pain.
Those on the outside couldn’t see the eyes of my son meeting his daddy’s eyes mid-run, uplifting him and spurring him on when exhaustion set in.
Very few see the incomprehensible pain my son experiences during and after being taken for runs and the way he chooses to race time and time again despite his knowledge of the horrific pain he will experience
My husband and son have very different roles when they run together. But they do not have uneven roles.
I am so proud of my son and husband for competing in a marathon.
However, I am just as proud of my children who do not battle debilitating medical conditions when they work hard and achieve their goals.
The reality of my boy’s diagnosis has taken so much from him. But it will never rob his ability to think, to feel, to connect.
He is as capable as anyone of setting a goal and working to achieve it.
If I were to set him on a pedestal or rank him in a special category of hero simply because he has a disability, that would discount the reality of who he is, what he thinks and feels, and what he works so hard for.
As much as I want to say my husband and son are the only true winners of the race or that their determination makes them heroes, I know that isn’t true.
Months ago, my husband and son set a goal. They worked and trained incredibly hard.
Both of them brought their strengths and weaknesses into the light and worked together to become a magnificent team.
Then, they achieved the goal they trained so hard for—together.
Does that set them apart? Does it make them exceptionally brave? Does it make them inspirations and heroes?
No. Not any more than any other competitor who ran the race that day.
Not anymore than the rest of us who run our own race, face our own fears, feel our own pain, and achieve the prize our eyes are set on.