Autism Connection of Pennsylvania is excited join the celebration of sthe 15th year of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon in 2023! The Pittsburgh Marathon was held annually from 1985-2003, and following a five-year hiatus, the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon was relaunched in 2009 and debuted with a sold-out field. Show your support for Autism Connection at the 15th running of this awesome event this May!
I was diagnosed with ADHD at 43. I always knew that I was different from my peers. Looking back, that difference created barriers and annoyed people at times. My non-stop chatter and impulsivity would lead to fights, self medication, and forced isolation during adolescence and early adulthood. I reflect now and I realize that physical activity helped regulate me; you may say it saved me. The structure and expectation of sports was key in my day-to-day success and when it was missing, the consequences were unpredictable.
Having a daughter with the same observable traits led me to encouraging physical activity and we experienced the positive outcomes of those daily challenges. That is how we live our lives together. As a family we participate in 5ks, competitive dance, competitive powerlifting, soccer, and terrain races. And now at age 50, I myself am training for my first Marathon!
This journey has already led to some meaningful moments in my life. I am thrilled that I can fundraise for a vital cause, and neurodiversity is now an open part of my personal life as much as it has been part of my professional life.
Jack Butler exudes passion for his work.
I have chosen to raise funds for the Autism Connection of PA, part of Achieva family of organizations where I have worked for 28 years. Autism Connection relies on fundraising to fulfill its mission to promote awareness and advocacy for and with autistic people. People who like me, may identify with being on the fringe of societal norms. Autism Connection is not focused on fixing people, but welcoming people to the table, supporting their goals, and valuing all perspectives.
By sponsoring me to run the Pittsburgh Marathon, you will help Autism Connection continue their good work and help all people lead lives of personal significance. What started as a therapeutic way for me to self-regulate has now turned into a way I can help meet some of the support needs of others. Please join me in this effort – I could use your encouragement every step of the way!
We met up with some friends from the Gingerbread Man Running Company, who so generously donate proceeds from their annual half marathon to support you, the autism community in PA.
Distance events – the rolling, swimming, bike, or running kinds – and autism may have more in common than you might imagine. They require practice, repetition, a slow building of endurance and technique to accomplish things over time. Sometimes we fall, get a sprain, strain, become overheated or freezing cold. We can be out on a course when suddenly it starts lightning – and we need to tap into adrenaline and get to shelter as fast as possible. Sometimes we misjudge the depth of a puddle, catch a wave in our face, or slip on painted lines or ice we cannot see.
The race begins with Gingerbread Man’s support
Back to Labor Day 2022 – we turned out before dawn to see what we as volunteers needed to do, set up camp at the start/finish line, chatted up the Gingerbread Man himself along with his coworkers, and got ready to greet and cheer runners in their various distance races. At around 90 minutes in, we got ready to hand out medals to finishers, and counted how many people were left on the course when we were down to about ten. The bike guide finally rode up and let us know “there’s the party group and one person left.” We got the right number of water bottles and a medal ready to hand out to them. I wondered what “the party group” was – maybe some new kind of birthday tradition?
What we didn’t know is that the “party” was a group from Victory Multisport who came out to the race just to run the Half with the intent of supporting the last person running. They joined him along the way, and got to know his story. They just kept him going.
No major advice, no drama, no big deal was made, but by providing companionship, encouragement, and listening to his personal motivations and life experience, they got him over the finish line in fine form.
The Bike Guy
Lots of people live with disability and grind it out, one step or one roll at a time, like the half marathoner. They do this if they are the person disabled by society’s barriers, or if they are a loved one trying to help out, possibly with the majority of care responsibilities. Like a distance athlete, they may have coaches or observers yelling advice, saying things like “You Got This!” or “God knew what he was doing…” and other things which may or may not be helpful at times of worry, stress, or downright despair when we feel like quitting.
Distance athletes sometimes think “I can’t do this anymore – how can I slow down, pace myself, or just quietly stop – will anyone see me? Judge me? Will I judge myself? Am I a quitter?” Often, they just put mind over matter and make strides to move past that next pebble, landmark, or tree they see ahead. And they get where they are going, experiencing some success, often with pain or exhaustion as their main companions.
There’s nothing heroic about living a disability life. It is what it is – not a choice, not a game, not an action movie, but a fact of life. There are certainly no medals being handed out. If we are in more of a spectator role, how can we provide water, practical encouragement, and physical or emotional support to those who are grinding it out?
Using the distance athlete metaphor – some want to be left alone to focus, some look up and smile when there are cheers, everyone needs the water, and lots of people need nutrition without even realizing how low their resources have gotten.
The “party group” was super cool to show up and support a complete stranger. If you find yourself in a support role, think about the value of doing concrete things like dropping off a lasagna, or helping with yard, shopping, or household chores. The last runner stuck it out and finished with confidence and style, accepting the help that was offered and made it easier.
Successfully Determined Runner
If you have a disability, or are a caregiver with needs, are you able to accept support that’s offered and to be specific about telling people what you need? Maybe you have done this and been let down; maybe it worked and it got you closer to a goal you needed to reach. Or maybe, you helped someone else cross their own finish line when you reached out for help.