A Nugget Challenge with no losers

  • Nugget sportswriter Greg Finan, Jr. gets ready to head to the starting line with his Race for a Reason team of Logan (middle) and Hugo (right).
    Nugget sportswriter Greg Finan, Jr. gets ready to head to the starting line with his Race for a Reason team of Logan (middle) and Hugo (right).

There was no losers when I took part in the Race for a Reason 5K fundraiser for ConnectAbility this past Saturday morning.
That is except for my legs.
The challenge came in the form of a Facebook post that someone screenshot and texted to me on Tuesday evening last week.
The post was encouraging people to bombard my email with requests for me to take part in Race for a Reason.
Normally, I have plenty of time to prepare for a Nugget Challenge. But, this go around there would be no time to prepare, no time to get in semi-decent shape and no time for me to think about it for too long.
And, to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was even going to attempt it until early Friday morning.
But, as I have never skirted away from a Nugget Challenge before, I decided now wasn’t the time to stop that trend.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I showed up to Hancock Park to pick up my number and meet the team I would be helping with I realized that the race was going to be a huge event.
There were people everywhere.
It was heartwarming to see all the community support for ConnectAbility’s mission to create communities where people of all abilities are valued, included and empowered.
I was partnered with Logan, a special needs young man who had a heart of gold and was extremely popular with those cheering on the participants of the 5K, and Hugo, a gentleman in his 60s who had helped in years past push those racers who had to make use of wheelchairs during the Race for a Reason.
I automatically knew that I was on a great team. I wasn’t sure if it was because of Logans’ terrific smile and the copious amounts of high-fives and thumbs ups that he was receiving, or if it was because of Hugo’s confidence that we were going to do well. Either way, some of my trepidations dissipated and I began to relax a little.
Less than 15 minutes after meeting my teammates, we were at the starting line for the 5K race. I stood behind Logan ready for a fast start.
And, a fast start is exactly what we got.
I felt like I was gliding as I pushed Logan towards Wimpy Mill. There was no time to think about our speed as we passed several runners and made our way to the front of the pack. I truly couldn’t believe that I was able to keep pace, but Logan’s cheerfulness kept me going.
That was until we got about 3/4 of the way down Wimpy Mill. It was then that I asked Hugo to take over for me pushing Logan. Hugo gladly obliged.
That would be the last time that I saw Hugo and Logan until I crossed the finish line.
As soon as I let Hugo take over, my mind and my body connected for the first time since the race started and I realized that I was in absolutely no shape to be running a 5K.
My pace slowed and by the time I made the right hand turn for the stretch that ran parallel with the reservoir my jog became a walk. I was passed by speed walking ladies, a guy and his dog and everyone that I had passed when I was pushing Logan.
Despite being passed by so many people, it gave me the opportunity to realize that young and old, fast and slow had come out to show their support for ConnectAbility through this race.
As I turned right at the Walmart intersection, I began to jog again and found myself re-energized knowing that the end was near.
So, 41 minutes after starting the race I crossed the finish line. I’d say it was an exhilarating experience, but I was too exhausted to be exhilarated. In fact, I was too tired to even stand anymore.
I grabbed a water and took a seat next to the Hancock Park pavilion.
Once again I was amazed by the amount of people participating and spectating as I watched the UNG cheerleaders rooting on runners as they crossed the finish line.
That’s when I spotted Hugo and Logan for the first time since they took off with a puff of smoke on Wimpy Mill. Logan had gotten out of his wheelchair to walk across the finish line. And, although, I didn’t get to witness it, I was extremely proud of the young man.
I thanked him and Hugo for letting me a part of their team if just for the first mile or so of the race. Logan gave me one last thumbs up and smile.
To tell the truth, it was that little exchange that made the whole thing worth it for me.
So, though I was no Usain Bolt, I felt that there would be no losers in this installment of The Nugget Challenge.
The joy that Logan and the other special needs participants displayed, the amount of community involvement with over 100 volunteers for the event and the sense of belonging no matter what your circumstance was a win-win for everyone that took part in Race for a Reason.
Now, I just hope that I can get my legs to work properly again.
Thanks to ConnectAbility and the Race for a Reason teams for letting me be a part of this amazing event. Maybe next year I’ll be able to prepare a little for it.