Running For Autism 2014: A Thousand Thank Yous

Today’s post is going to look a bit like a speech from the Oscars, only there’s no red carpet, I’m not wearing a ballgown accessorized with diamond jewellery, and I didn’t get a funny little trophy thing. Instead, there is the finish line of a race, a sweaty old running outfit accessorized with a space blanket, and a finisher’s medal. Just setting the scene so you can picture me as I start my speech.

<clears throat and waits for the audience hubbub to die down>

My 2014 autism run is now almost a week in the past. I have one day left of sitting on the couch doing nothing post-race recovery. The stiffness in my legs is gone, my knees have recovered, and the chafing from my sports bra is fading. Even the Ankle of Doom is feeling pretty good. I am almost ready to lace up my shoes for an easy run, and I have started thinking about my race calendar for next year.

I want to thank my mother, because people always start by thanking their mothers. And because my mom is awesome. She lives on the other side of the world, but I felt that she was part of the finish crowd cheering me on last Sunday. Thanks also to my brother, who is a loyal supporter and a great friend.

I want to thank my Dad, who was an elite runner in his youth and the first to fuel my love of running many years ago, in a previous life. Dad was a superb runner, and he always believed in me. He is no longer with us, but I still feel his presence when I run, and he was definitely with me on race day.

I want to thank the organizers of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K for putting on a fantastic event. Everything was great, from race kit pickup right through to the post-race food. I enjoyed almost every minute of the race, and I even made it through my troublesome 18K patch better than I ever have before. I had enough energy in reserve at the end to really belt it out in the last kilometre, and the look on my face in my race picture tells you how I was feeling as I sprinted to the finish line.

Best finish line shot ever!

Best finish line shot ever!

Thank you to the Geneva Centre for Autism, not only for being a constant source of support for my family since George was diagnosed with autism in 2007, but also for getting me off the couch and into my running shoes a little more than five years ago. It is a true honour to be affiliated with this organization that has given countless autism families the most precious of commodities: hope.

Thank you to all of the people who sponsored me. Your generous donations are going to make a real difference for so many kids. Thanks to you, children and youth with autism will be able to learn how to play musical instruments, participate in sports teams, attend social skills training, go to summer camps, communicate via iPads and much more. Opportunities are being created for my son and other kids like him, thanks to you. My appreciation for your support has no bounds.

Thank you to the runners in my life, who have always been there with words of advice and encouragement when I’ve needed it. You have celebrated with me after the good training runs this season, and you have commiserated with me when the going has been tough. You know what it’s like – the long runs on rainy days resulting in squelchy shoes, the uncomfortable chafey bits where you didn’t apply enough Body Glide, the runs that are just bad for no reason – and you always encourage me to keep going.

Thank you to all of my non-running friends, who tolerate my running-related social media postings: the race-time status updates, the moans and groans about sore muscles, the Instagram pictures of my training watch. You are kind enough to like and comment on my posts, you tag me in running-related things that you think I will like (and I do – I love all of them). Your messages of support and love last Sunday were overwhelming, and they meant the world to me.

Thank you to my husband, who holds the unenviable position of being the partner of a runner. Over the course of the season, he made sure I could get out for my long runs and races, and he tended to my aching muscles with the right combination of concern and humour. The night before the race, he sacrificed sleep so that I could rest undisturbed by children, and he got up early to make sure I got to the start line on time.

Thank you to my younger son James, my tireless supporter and cheerleader. He cheerfully saw me off for my long training runs throughout the season, and he always welcomed me back with a hug, even though I was stinky and sweaty. He is a fantastic champion for his brother’s cause: it was his idea for me to run in a cape last Sunday, to “get into the spirit for autism”. His energy is contagious, and I took a bit of it with me on my race.

The final thank you is reserved for George, my older son, my brave and amazing autism boy. George is my inspiration. He is the reason I get up early in the morning to run in the dark, the reason I do ten-mile training runs in the midsummer heat, the reason I am willing to get rain in my running shoes on wet days. George teaches me about life every single day. And when I am struggling through a run, feeling like it will never end, thoughts of George get me through. I tell myself that this kid lives with autism every hour of every day. That doesn’t stop him from being one of the most determined people I have ever encountered. If he’s not going to give up, then neither am I.


This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Finish line photo credited to Marathon-Photos. Picture of runner’s wall message credited to Kirsten Doyle.


My Message To Runners


To my fellow runners,

There are no words to describe how I feel following the events in Boston yesterday. It hits very close to home for us runners. Our beloved sport – our refuge and escape, the thing that keeps many of us feeling safe and grounded when things are hard – has been targeted in such a violent way. This has affected the entire running community – not only the runners themselves, but race organizers and volunteers, and those people who make races truly special and memorable: the friends and family members who stand on the sidelines cheering us on as we race for the finish line.

I cannot imagine what it must have been like for those of you who were there in Boston, running the race. To those of you who crossed the finish line, I hope that amid the chaos and the sadness and the shock, you can hold onto the fact that you accomplished something incredible. Don’t let the perpetrators of this terrible act take the victory away from you.

To those of you who were forced to abandon the race, I hope you will be able to return another day to finish what you started. The Boston Marathon will be back – I hope you will too. Claim that victory that you so richly deserve.

To those who were injured, whose loved ones were injured, who are now having to say goodbye to friends and family members who lost their lives, my heart breaks for you. You are all in my thoughts as you try to rebuild your lives, recover from the injuries and adjust to a whole different life.

The people who did this want us to be afraid. They want us to either abandon our races or approach finish lines with fear. They want us to give up.

Clearly, they underestimate our ability to band together  and fight back. They forget that we train our bodies and minds to accomplish great things no matter what obstacles lie in our way. They don’t factor in our stubbornness, our absolute determination to get ourselves across that finish line, no matter what.

Afraid? Don’t be ridiculous.

Let’s come back from this stronger than we’ve ever been before. Let’s train harder, race stronger and celebrate more joyously when we cross the finish line. Let’s make it clear that we will not let anyone bully us into hanging up our running shoes. Let’s make sure every race is full to capacity.

My friend Phaedra, who ran the Boston Marathon yesterday, said this: “A marathon is supposed to be about the triumph of the human spirit, not about senseless violence.”

We can and will make the human spirit rise up and lift us above this tragedy. The people with the bombs are cowards. We are the ones with the strength and courage.

And we are the winners.

Just another runner


Book Review: I Run, Therefore I Am STILL Nuts!

My sports medicine doctor once told me that runners are his least favourite patients.

“It’s nothing personal,” he was quick to add. “It’s just that rehabbing you people after an injury is impossible. You never listen to instructions, you just go out and run long before you’re ready to, and then you’re back here ten days later wondering why your injury has flared up.”

I have to admit that my doctor has a point. We have a very special kind of dedication to our sport, runners do. If our training program calls for a 20km run, then we will do a 20km run, even if the Weather Network is warning motorists not to go out because of a blizzard. We take pride in the incredulous looks we get from people when we go out in mad conditions, we wear our black toenails like badges of honour, and we are slaves to our Garmin watches.

If you can relate to this, you will love Bob Schwartz’s hilarious book, I Run, Therefore I Am STILL Nuts! The author writes about his experiences as a runner, from injuries to races, from trying to force encourage his kids to run with him to giving in and getting a dog instead. All through this book, I was nodding along knowingly and gaining little insights into the slight insanity that the partners of runners have to live with. I’m sure my husband appreciates the new-found awe with which I regard him.

You don’t even have to be a runner to appreciate this book. If you live with a runner, know a runner, or simply get frustrated with races messing up the traffic where you live, you are sure to get a kick out of reading this. The easy reading and laugh-out-loud humour are supplemented with delightfully funny artwork by B.K. Taylor.

Runners and supporters alike will get more than a good laugh out of reading this. Interspersed among the humour are little snippets of wisdom. Thanks to the book, I now know how I might be able to achieve the all-important Runner’s High if an injury prevents me from running. I have a new appreciation for the sheer simplicity of running, and for the first time I realize that runners are more than a little obsessed with the concept of time.

I also take pride in the fact that I am part of a tribe that can claim to be truly nuts.

(Review copy and image of cover kindly provided by Human Kinetics).