There were 50,000 people downtown last Sunday morning, jostling for a place to park and a place to stand while waiting for the starting gun. Of course, with 36 years of experience, the organizers of Bloomsday have worked out the best way to accommodate such a crowd. There is method to the madness and order in the chaos. It is impressive.
But what strikes me most of all is the determination, kindness and encouragement I observed that morning on Doomsday Hill.
If you have ever ridden a bicycle, you know that it is easier to get off and walk up the hill than it is to continue to pedal up a steep grade. The wheelchair racers had already arm-muscled their way up Cemetery Hill, along with the shorter hill by the community college. They then had this fabulous series of S-curves that is all downhill and were able to cruise across the bridge — surely an exhilarating ride and a short rest for their muscles.
However, at the end of the bridge the wheelchair racers must slow down for a sharp turn, perhaps a 130° angle, which brings them to the base of Doomsday Hill. My family and I are standing about 150 yards up from that spot.
Doomsday (it has a nicer name the rest of the year) is a long and daunting hill. Due to the topography, you can’t see how long it really is until you are halfway up the hill on the main curve. Near the top of the hill is the mile 5 marker, out of 7.46 miles.
It takes a lot of strength and determination to make it up this long hill.
When I was sharing my Bloomsday photos with my friend ~A~, she exclaimed, “That’s Bobby!” over one of the pictures. As an occupational therapist, she had assisted in his treatment “a lifetime ago.” He was born to a drug-addicted mother and her usage caused birth defects that included his legs being damaged. Had there been no intervention in his life, he might have followed in her footsteps… but there was intervention, hope was given, and this young man has become an athlete.
While I was busy cheering these amazing athletes on their way up the hill, I hadn’t stopped to pause and consider that they didn’t have a choice to run this race. For at least one of them, a wheelchair was his locomotion because of the choice made by someone else long ago. And yet here they were, the fastest of them finishing ahead of the foot racers; others being passed by fast runners on Doomsday Hill.
This man looks all alone — but he isn’t. As the runners passed by on either side, he was given audible encouragement: “You’re doing great!” “Keep it up!” “You can do it!”
The race course is only two-thirds completed at this spot, but I saw winning spirit here.