In the post The New Coach, I introduced Lilyan as my new coach. I wear her name on my shirt whenever I run and I mention her often but have never told what she really means to me. She is not just a coach or a running buddy, she is much more.
Lilyan was born 16 weeks early and weighed only .65 kilograms. She spent much of her early life in the hospital and her parents were soon told the very bad news. Although she would live Lilyan had Spastic Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disorder, and would never be able to go to play sports or go to school or walk or talk or feed herself. More bad news, because she was born premature her lungs were not fully developed and she would constantly be at risk for respiratory problems. Lucky for us all, she and her parents didn’t just give up, they decided to try.
Most little girls go to school but spend the rest of their time playing. Not Lilyan. She now can talk, feed herself (and her little sister) and goes to school. During school she also has physical, occupational and speech therapy. After school the work continues. When most her age are watching TV, playing video games or riding bikes she goes back for more therapy. The therapist try their best to come up with fun and exciting ways to work with her and other children but there is no way to disguise some of the things. She works hard, not just physically but mentally. Things that we take for granted, she strives to achieve.
Her parents, Ashley and Tyler, want her to have the same things in life as any other child and they have instilled that thought into Lilyan. She not only feeds herself now but tries to sneak the things she doesn’t want to her sister. She has trouble holding pencils or pens to write so she uses a tablet instead. She has started wheeling her own wheelchair and using a walker more and more so she isn’t dependent on others.. She has even started standing on her own to get toys to play with or things she wants.
Of course all of this hard work and dedication is very inspiring but more than anything it is her normal and she expects it from everyone else. A recent Facebook post from her mom:
Lilyan: mommy chocolate milk please.
Me: ok bring me your cup
Lilyan: it’s over there, don’t be lazy!
It seems like there is no shortage of excuses to skip a work out and there are even more to not push hard during it. When I want to stop I often think of her. If Lilyan skipped her workouts when she was tired or wasn’t in the mood where would she be? The day after I read Ashley’s post I was cold and tired and wanted to turn around and go back to my car then I remembered, “it’s over there, don’t be LAZY.” Those words, most likely spoken as a smart come back, can be applied to almost anything in life. Challenge yourself, set a goal and then go, it’s right over there. There is no telling what you can achieve in life if you can just follow her lead.
I have been blessed with many things, I have a wonderful family, the love of a beautiful lady, great friends, good health… the list could go on and on but a very special one was when I was matched with Lilyan. At first I thought it would be all about me trying to do things to inspire her, now I know it’s all about her doing things to inspire me. I have not run a race in the last year that I have not thought of her and how proud I am of her and all she does. Just today I went on my last long run before next weekends’ half marathon. I was alone and had a very busy afternoon and evening waiting. A little voice in my head was saying just make it to 10 miles, that will be enough… but then the other words came to me, don’t be lazy. 15.5 miles, my longest run to date. After all, when I run, I am wearing her name on my shirt, she deserves it.
I was matched with Lilyan through a wonderful group called I Run 4 Michael. This community group matches those with special needs with those that run so they can draw on each other for strength and inspiration. I can honestly say that I had no idea how much this would mean to me. I strongly encourage anyone who falls into either group to look into it, you will be rewarded.