VIDEO: Pavement pounders and pooches at 2016 Sound to Narrows
Anthony Devine is a typical young man.
“He is rough and tough and he likes to go fast,” said Shannon Devine, Anthony’s mom. “He just isn’t capable.”
Anthony is 19 and has cerebral palsy, a disorder that impacts his ability to move and talk. With the help of a walker, he can usually walk about 10 steps. Most of the time he uses a wheelchair.
“Nothing has ever come easy for him,” Shannon said.
Still, on Saturday’s cloudy morning, Anthony was smiling, laughing and waving as he waited for the start of the 44th Sound to Narrows.
Anthony was one of three special needs participants in the 12-kilometer race assisted by My Team Triumph. The national organization helps people who otherwise would be unable to race by providing them with equipment and volunteer assistance.
Sound to Narrows was the fourth of nine races for My Team Triumph’s recently launched Puget Sound chapter. Anthony has competed in all of the races. Saturday’s race was the first for Brandon Surprenant, 20, of Tacoma and Tyler Reeve, 13, of Puyallup.
“It is a really great experience to help them feel that freedom,” said Christina Reilly, the chapter’s captain coordinator. “That wind in your hair. That feeling like you are flying.”
It is a really great experience to help them feel that freedom. That wind in your hair. That feeling like you are flying.
Christina Reilly, My Team Triumph’s Puget Sound chapter
The three participants, or “captains,” were in specially designed racing chairs that resemble oversize jogging strollers. The chairs were provided for the captains by the organization.
Each racing chair was pushed along the hilly course by a team of volunteers referred to as “angels.” Anthony had four angels, including his parents. Brandon and Tyler each had three.
The volunteers wore red shirts that read “My hero always beats me by a second.” Each team devised their own strategy for covering the course. Their hero isn’t light (the chair weighs about 40 pounds and Anthony weighed 100), and the Sound to Narrows course is famously hilly.
Typically, Reilly said, on the hills two people push while the other helps direct traffic. “And sometimes it’s all hands on deck,” Shannon said.
Angel duty is well worth the effort, according to the volunteers.
As the teams zipped through Point Defiance, Matt Devine, Anthony’s dad, said his son was either saying “Hi” to other racers or singing “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
“We always say the captains are the stars of the show,” Reilly said. “It’s all about making sure that they have an amazing experience. When people embrace that and make it possible for them to participate, it is awesome.”
It gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Shannon Devine, mother of My Team Triumph participant Anthony Devine
The weekend before the race, the teams met to practice on the waterfront. For Tyler and Brandon, it was their first time in the racing chairs.
Brandon had run 5Ks in a standard wheelchair with his mom, Sunni. Tyler was new to racing.
“Within a couple minutes, you could hear him laughing and giggling,” Reilly said of Tyler’s training run. “And we were, ‘Oh yeah, he loves it. He’s in.’”
The races can be an emotional experience for the volunteers, too. Racing with Anthony in April’s Seahawks 5K in Renton, Reilly was moved by the support of organizers and other racers. The Sea Gals even crowded around Anthony for a post-run picture.
“I totally cried when I got home,” Reilly said.
Shannon remembers hearing the story of Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick. After Rick was born with cerebral palsy, his father would compete in endurance races while pushing his son. Team Hoyt has made headlines for nearly 40 years by competing together in more than 1,000 races.
The Puget Sound chapter of My Team Triumph was founded by Tracy Hale, an urgent care physician assistant, who died in 2013 after battling brain cancer.
They inspired My Team Triumph, which Shannon calls “a dream come true.”
“I never thought (Anthony) would have something like this,” Shannon said. “… It gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
And Shannon thinks racing gives Anthony a feeling that’s often hard for him to experience: independence.
“I really want to see the Puget Sound area embrace My Team Triumph,” Shannon said. “Tacoma really is embracing of people with special needs. Metro Parks has a good program. There are a lot of runners in the area. I think this program would fit right in.”
My Team Triumph: Puget Sound
The team: My Team Triumph helps disabled people, who would otherwise be unable to compete in races, participate by providing equipment and volunteer assistance.
Who can sign up: The Puget Sound chapter is in its first year and looking for new “captains” (people with disabilities) and “angels” (volunteers who help push the captains).
Up Next: Rock N Roll Half Marathon, Seattle, June 18; Four on the Fourth, Lakewood, July 4; The Super Run 5K, Seattle, Aug. 20; Race for A Soldier, Gig Harbor, Sept. 25; Black Cat Fun Run, Tacoma, Oct. 22.