At the start of a 5-K in Eagle Mountain, Utah, a group of kids rock excitedly in their strollers. “They’re always eager to get going,” says runner Charles Stoddard. The children won’t take a step in this race–that’s the task of volunteers like Stoddard, who push the kids in jogging strollers at various events near Salt Lake City.
Stoddard and 6-year-old Elizabeth Robison are among 14 child-runner teams geared up to get moving this chilly morning in March. The kids all have various disabilities. Many, like Elizabeth, suffer from cerebral palsy. As the mass of runners move down the mountain, Elizabeth grins. She’s unable to speak, but a few of the kids shout what organizers say is the group’s collective mantra: “Faster! Go faster!”
Helping kids experience the thrill of racing was exactly what Andrew McMahon had in mind when he conceived Push to the Finish two years ago. McMahon, 37, saw a wheelchair-bound child on the sidelines of a race a few years ago, and an image came to mind of the Hoyts–the father-and-son duo who have completed more than a thousand road races with Dick, the father, pushing Rick, a quadriplegic, in a wheelchair. “I went home and asked my wife, ‘How can we get more disabled kids racing?'” says McMahon, a director of college outreach and father of three able-bodied girls. A few phone calls later, McMahon had three kids, three runners, and a race welcoming their participation.