Happy 4th of July… or not

I had started on a different post for today – I wanted to do a recap of the first half of the year. Then, I started reading the news and I stumbled upon this article:

Runners Boycott Cazenovia July 4 Race Over Boys’ Wheelchair Ban

Basically, there are two young boys, Nolan and Jack, who have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. They have been participating in some local events as part of Team Two Smiles, with assistance from several athletes, and they were going to participate in the 4th of July race in “joggers.” They requested permission from the race and the Syracuse Chargers Track Club board responded:

“Having those conveyances simultaneously present with runners on a road race course during a race adds a variety of safety hazards for participating runners, as well as for the passengers and pushers of those conveyances.”

(To provide some context, the race is held at 8:45am on 4th of July morning in Cazenovia, New York – population 7,000)

This is wrong for so many reasons. Having these boys on the course doesn’t cause any additional safety issues. A very minor accomodation, such as an early start, would easily prevent any “traffic” issues. There is nothing preventing the boys from doing the course today or tomorrow – so the message is clear – you can participate, just not with everyone else on Fourth of July.

These are just kids. They could be my kids or your kids. They could be our sisters or brothers or friends. They are probably going to have more challenges in their lives than the rest of us, and sadly, they most likely will not be with us for as long. If they want to participate, with reasonable precautions, they should be able to participate.

This is reminiscent of the early 1980s when the NYC Marathon fought tooth and nail to prevent wheelchair participants (in fact, the NYC Marathon did not have an official wheelchair division until 2000).

Aside from the blatant discrimination, it strikes me as odd when some of the greatest athletes of our time are people with disabilties.

Tatyana McFadden (in 2013, she won the Boston, Chicago, London and New York marathons)

Tatyana McFadden (in 2013, she won the Boston, Chicago, London and New York marathons)

Ernst van Dyk (ten-time winner of the Boston Marathon) photo credit: Greg M. Cooper (USA Today)

Ernst van Dyk (ten-time winner of the Boston Marathon)
photo credit: Greg M. Cooper (USA Today)

Obviously, I have to mention Team Hoyt. They have inspired millions and may be the single most positive symbol of the Boston Marathon.

Team Hoyt

Team Hoyt

I am registered for this race. I was looking forward to this race. Now, I’m honestly not sure what to do.

Run the race and pretend nothing happened? Unlikely.

Run the race and make a donation to Two Smiles One Hope Foundation?

Not run the race?

I don’t know. In the meantime, I’ve contacted the board of directors who made this decision and I’m hoping they will change their minds before Friday morning.

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18 Responses to Happy 4th of July… or not

  1. I totally agree!

    Side note: My friend races for Team Hoyt. I met them and it was life-changing! Then, to see them again in Boston (2011) was just awe-inspiring. It actually did inspire a local dad in NJ to do the same with his son, and now they are mainstays at local races!

    • Jason says:

      Team Hoyt has been such an inspiration to so many! That’s really cool that you got to meet them. I honestly can’t believe this is happening – and to kids no less!

  2. Decisions like these are made by people who simply don’t get it. Aren’t we, as runners who race, liable for anything that could happen to us during a race anyway? I don’t see what hazards two inspirational kids could cause except for other people being inspired and more fun that could possibly be had by watching them. I’d seriously consider to boycott the race, but unfortunately they already have your entry fee. Keep us posted!!

  3. This is the second time in a week that I’ve heard a story like this; I have a running friend in town here who uses a stroller for support as well and she’s encountered “bans” from races for obstruction. Keep us posted. What a bad (and sad) call by the Syracuse club.

  4. osarah26 says:

    I hope the race directors change this decision and let the wheelchair & jogger racers participate. I feel bad for the kids who probably really enjoy being part of the races and everyone who was looking forward to watching them. It’s ridiculous to be so exclusive of such a good cause. I think your option to run the race and make a donation to the foundation is a great idea; match your race entry fee with a donation!

  5. brennjones says:

    Good post. Is there an insurance cost issue behind the directors’ decision? If so, they should be transparent about that.

    • Jason says:

      I’m sure it’s nominal for this type of race – and something they could have addressed publicly. I really just don’t understand it.

  6. It doesn’t make sense if everyone signs waivers. Boycott, or at least run the race wearing a Two Smiles t-shirt/donation. When you win, draw more attention to the issue.

  7. I think if anyone out there has a wheelchair and is registered for the race, we should take turns pushing one another. Let them decide if they want to toss us out.
    Thanks for getting out there on this.

  8. Definitely run the race and make your protest visible at the event itself, like Gina’s idea about the t-shirt. If enough people did that, it might make a difference. Best of luck!

  9. Mary Klee says:

    I am saddened and disappointed in the decision of the Chargers to not allow the boys to participate on Friday. As a running community, we promote wellness and inclusion, this decision is quite the opposite of that philosophy. 467 people completed the 10-mile course last year. How “dangerous” can this be for runners who run races such as the Boilermaker and Boston Marathon with fields of 15-25,000 with wheelchair participants. I am also contemplating how I can support an event that has discriminated, quite unjustly, to these boys and their team.

  10. Ellen Brunet says:

    It’s an Honor & it’s a Privilege to share a course with Jack & Nolan and the incredible group of men and women who participate in these events with them.

  11. That’s crazy! I’m also not quite sure as to how I would proceed if this was a race I was registered for. I don’t get it, frankly. How much of a ‘hazard’ could they be? If anything, they would pass such a great message to onlookers and people who have doubts about their own abilities! Truly sad. I really hope they will change their decision… xoxo

    PS. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE Gina’s suggestion!

  12. Geez…how disappointing this news is. Luckily, there are people out there like you that are going to speak up and show your discouragement. I am sure you will make a decision that you feel in your heart is appropriate. I used to race in my wheelchair (I was a runner, then shattered both legs and was told I’d never walk again), the exhilaration I felt, support and enthusiasm of runners was unexplainable. My issues and life was nothing like what these kids are battling, but I can relate to a feeling of being different. There were many times I would be the only wheelchair in the race, they’d give me an early or later start if they felt they needed it. I can say from experience that If there is any population of accepting people, it is runners. I hope that these directors make right their decision, but these kids may not be willing to participate due to the rejection they had to endure if they change their minds too late.

  13. Pingback: Happy 4th of July (update) | Must Love Jogs

  14. RunnersDad says:

    Wouldn’t it be a sight if everyone ran the race but nobody actually crossed the finish line as a protest.

  15. Pingback: Millrose, Record Cold and More! | Must Love Jogs

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