NO LONGER AN OUTSIDER: FEELING ACCEPTED



This morning was walking to the local coffee shop in Leadville, Colorado to get a morning pick-me-up. En route, I passed the Leadville Race Administrative building. I decided to pop-in and see if any familiar faces were around. As soon as I opened the door somebody said, “Hi Jason!” Within seconds a figure appeared, walking towards me. It was Quinn Cooper, a LifeTime Fitness employee who is responsible for all the logistics of the Leadville Race Series, and a multitude of other LifeTime athletic events. We hugged, caught up, and before departing I wanted to reconfirm with Quinn that I would be having Guides as I attempt to complete the Leadville 100 Trail Race this weekend. I told Quinn that I had “GUIDE” bibs and vests that they would wear. Quinn said, “Don’t worry about that. I ordered ‘Guide’ bibs for your guides.”

I was silenced.

I couldn’t process what Quinn’s words meant. All I had to do was just show up and run. They knew my condition, and the accommodations I needed. They knew I was coming to race. I have had many difficulties trying to participate in ultras in the past. This time, I didn’t have to go through a long explanation of having a disease that is slowly robbing me of eyesight and stir up a bunch of emotions. I didn’t need to “prove” I was going blind with doctor’s reports, in order to be accommodated. I didn’t need to do anything because I am different. I wasn’t forced to have a guide, or not have a guide. I didn’t have to argue about my guide being an extra person on the course. I didn’t need to feel different because I am blind.

THEY WANT ME HERE!  THEY SUPPORT ME HERE! Inside I was crying, but I didn’t want to let Quinn see what her simple act of inclusiveness had done to me. Instead, I asked Quinn if I could hug her one more time as a thank you.

When I first began running ultramarathons 10 years ago, I dreamt of this day. A day when athletes with disabilities would be running very long distances. I went out of my way to become a poster child of a person who runs ultras and has a disability. It makes me very uncomfortable to do this. It draws positive and negative comments alike. I don’t like the attention. But, I knew by putting myself out there and demonstrating that blind people can run and complete the most difficult races out there, more and more blind people would begin competing.

Today, one of the most prestigious races made a very clear, decisive and loud statement.

After our hug and my thank you, Quinn stepped back and said matter of factly, “why wouldn’t we order the ‘Guide’ bibs. We want you, and all athletes with challenges. We need to have everybody here.”

To Quinn Cooper, LifeTime Fitness, Ken & Merilee………..Nothing but respect and thank you for your continued support of all athletes, and for making such a clear and decisive statement that Athletes with Differences are welcome in Leadville.

ONWARD!





Jason is an expert at teaching people to transform Dreams into Reality. He has amassed a lifetime of expertise in the field as a General Manager for General Electric leading large teams, where he ran a $400 million dollar business, he was a former leader of Global Operations for a Fortune 100 company, an attorney and CEO of a non-profit that helps children with Autism. In addition to his professional experience, he is a US Paralympian, holds 15 world records in ultra-running and mountain biking, is an author, a highly sought after motivational and business speaker and is the 1st and only blind person to run across America - 3,063 miles where he averaged 51.5 miles/day for 59.5 days. For speaking and media inquiries visit www.jasonromero.net 

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