It is very fitting that the Partners Advancing Character Education (PACE) trait of the month for May is Courage.

The month of May for the ParaSport Spokane program kicked off with the Bloomsday 12k. A roller coaster of a road race for wheelchair athletes, with blazing speeds on the downhill sections, some flat segments for all out speed and the challenging obstacles that hill climbs present, Bloomsday has it all.

In the weeks leading up to Bloomsday the ParaSport Spokane Road Race Crew set out to build up their training to be prepared for the May 4th start. Segmenting the course into 2-4 mile sections, athletes would start at varying locations such as the PSS Office at 221 W Main, or SFCC, or the Bloomsday Warehouse on varying days and target certain aspects of the course.

With a young squad, including three savvy veterans of the course,  two returnees doing Bloomsday for the second time, and  two newer athletes who have never raced, reactions to the course were always entertaining. One particular story, which embodies the character trait of the month, begs to be told.

The first few workouts always start in the downtown area and traverse the first half of the course from Riverside Dr. to SFCC. (For a wheelchair racer’s perspective check out this video.) The course begins bouncing along Riverside drive and through Brown’s Addition. A relatively flat course up until this point, the road slowly begins to slope downward and soon the athletes can see the trees, valley and the Spokane River ahead signalling the start of Riverside hill.  Top athletes will exceed  35mph on this hill, with a few turns and increasing rate of descent, this downhill flattens out and crosses the bridge over the Latah River into a hard right turn, and the climb to Government Way begins.

Veteran PSS athletes talk of the lore of this hill, coaches warn of the need for control by “tapping” the brakes and only using small turns on the steering tree, and the rookies are saddled with the anxiety associated with these elements.  One athlete in particular, a rookie, was pushing the course with Head Coach Teresa Skinner riding along beside on her bike (all athletes are paired with at least one biker for safety when on the road). As they both approached Riverside hill and the road began to slope downward the following conversation ensued.

Athlete – “Ohhhhhh is the this hill?”
TS – “Yep, make sure you are tapping that brake”
Athlete – “Ohhhhhh ok”  Taps brake and is going very slowly at this point such that Coach Skinner is having a hard time balancing her bike. The athlete, realizing how slowly they are going, states.
Athlete – “Why am I so chicken?” Being new to the USA, this athlete is always asking great questions. “What is opposite of chicken?”
TS – ” Brave?”
Athlete – “No, what animal is opposite of a chicken?”
TS – “Oh! A lion.”
Athlete – “Yah, me no lion, I am a chicken!”
And they very slowly proceeded down the hill.

As the weeks went by and this athlete experienced Riverside hill as well as the hill on Ft George Wright into Doomsday hill, they gradually eased up on the brakes, gained more an more confidence and were clocked at 24mph on Riverside the week prior to the Bloomsday race.

Family commitments had this athlete out of town and they didn’t get the opportunity to race on May 4, but the training they experienced, confidence that they built in facing their fear showed a great amount of courage as they did not limit themselves at their comfort level. They pushed beyond and grew through the fear they felt versus shying away from it. So much so, that this young athlete was heard to say “I am a Lion!” after their final course push, and would make a growl when ever they felt the need to summon their courage to complete a challenging part of the course.

Noted Author and Leadership Guru, Robin Sharma, states that.
“Your greatest fear is the biggest liar in the world… That fear that keeps you small, blocks your progress, limits your achievement and blinds your dreaming is nothing but a huge LIE. You picked it up along the way. Someone taught it to you. It’s not who you truly are. But now you believe it.”

Often, the first reaction of a person with a disability when approached about playing sport is that they don’t want to try it. It is unknown to them as they are not exposed to it, there are no avenues to see and experience. These folk don’t have any basis for this fear and it blocks their progress. ParaSport Spokane is blessed with many courageous members that are overcoming challenges and obstacles every day. We are glad that, through sport, we are helping them build confidence and to develop their skill set to embrace challenge and to become strong individuals.