“I can only imagine”… One of those moments you cannot forget

By Dave Andrusko

Team Hoyt
Photo: Ericshawwhite

My oldest daughter, who regularly runs marathons and half-marathons, won’t be with me this New Year’s Eve as I run what is (for me) a hefty challenge: 4 miles. She can’t because she’ll be running another half-marathon! (Show off!)

This adventure in attempting to stave off some of the effects of getting way up there in age began over two years ago when Emily persuaded me (much, I later learned, to her surprise) to run (loosely defined) three miles–a 5K–on Father’s Day.

All the races that Emily has accompanied me since have provided surprising blessings, both for me and Lisa, my wife, who often comes to watch. A while back the three of us got up at 4:45 on a Sunday to watch Emily compete in a very short race, by her standards, of six miles.

Beautiful day, up to a thousand runners, nice background music–couldn’t ask for more.

Lisa and I stood about 10 ten feet away from the finish line. Having not ever seen Emily actually come across the finish line in prior races (there can be a lot of people bunched together), we were bound and determined this time to actually see our first birth finish and give her a high-five.

By the way, Emily teaches vocational skills (“life skills”) to adolescents with special needs.

As we waited for Emily, members of the group that were running 3 miles began to cross the finish line, one by one, including a mom pushing a double stroller with two little kids on board.

And then…one of those moments you don’t forget, you can’t forget.

A guy, I’m guessing in his late thirties, finished unnoticed by anyone, as best I could tell. He was pushing an adult-size stroller.

For a moment, I thought it was another double stroller. Looking online afterwards, I’m guessing it was a variation of what is called an “advance mobility freedom push chair.”

His compatriot in the race was a young man, probably in his late teens. He was safe and secure and warm, bundled up under a kind of protective tarp, his face beaming pure joy as they completed the race.

This special young man had a special need. His dad, his brother, his friend–whoever it was that pushed him around the small tarmac where the race took place–unceremoniously kissed him on the forehead and placed around his neck the medal they’d received for finishing the race.

I’m guessing that many of our NRL News Today readers have seen the “Team Hoyt” video to which people have added as background music, “I can only imagine” by Casting Crowns.

For those who haven’t, you’re wondering what/who is Team Hoyt?

It began, according to Jacqueline Mitchell

in 1977, when 15-year-old Rick, who was paralyzed at birth due to oxygen deprivation, told his dad he wanted to participate in a 5-mile run to benefit a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed.

Since then, Dick and Rick completed thousands of marathons and triathlons, including six Ironman competitions—that’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, followed by the 26.2-mile marathon.

Every time I watch the final scene, when they cross the finish line together, I choke up.

As best I can tell, nobody was there that day at our little local airport (which closed down for a couple of hours to allow the race), with camera in hand, ready to take pictures and maybe write a story about this small but important triumph of the human spirit.

I’m sure the man was not looking for publicity. He was just doing the right thing.

But I was there. And I was blessed. And I so I wrote about them.