autism,  cross-country,  exercise,  high school,  milestones,  teen years,  track

A New Label


J after Wednesday morning’s practice. Rock star runner, right there.

J’s met with a lot of new people this month–a new orthopedic doctor, new trainers in his weight training class, new therapists at the eye doctor. And in almost every conversation he’s had, one of the first things out of J’s mouth?

“I’m a runner.”

J has never identified himself with another label besides his name, so to hear him describe himself in a conversation as a runner? I was shocked, and elated, and little emotional. It’s been amazing to see J’s growth both emotionally and physically with this running journey. It’s like every few months, he becomes a new kid.

And once again, this week, I got to see a new kid. Summer running started Monday and J is doing it all on his own. ALL OF IT. I pull up to the entrance, J hops out of the car, I drive home, I drive back to the school an hour later, J runs out of the school and into the car. And that’s it! He’s like every other kid on the team.

And then Wednesday happened. Wednesday I pulled up to the entrance, let J off, started to pull away and then realized—wait, I didn’t see any coaches. I parked the car, stuck my head into the school and asked the kids, “have you seen any coaches?”

“No,” they answered, still waiting for someone to show up. I know it happens every once in a while in off season training, sometimes there’s a communication mix-up and kids show up and there’s no coaches or coaches show up and there’s just one or two kids. I hung around with J for a few minutes until the small group of boys decided that they would go ahead and go out for their run. I had that split second debate in my mind—do I take J home? Do I let him run with the boys? I wasn’t dressed to run, and I didn’t have my bike, so I couldn’t tag behind him to make sure he was okay. As the oldest boy decided where they would run, he asked J how many miles he wanted to run, asked the group their mileage to make sure they all had someone to run with, and that’s when I made my decision.

I let J run with the boys all by himself.

The whole drive home I reassured myself that he would be fine. I felt fine—I didn’t have any nervous butterflies about it, I didn’t have any anxious “what if” thoughts running through my mind because this run was a run he’s done literally hundreds times over the last three years with the boys he’s been running with daily for the last three years. The weather was perfect. The run was an “out and back” (meaning you run in one direction and come back the same direction—it’s impossible to get lost). J was going to be just fine.

And he was. As I drove back to the school, I saw J in his bright yellow shirt a little ways in the distance heading back to the school. I knew by the time I parked, he would cross the intersection and head into the school. He rocked it.

Wednesday’s run was the first time in J’s life where he’s ever been with a group of kids his age (besides his sister) without any adults around. It’s a huge, HUGE milestone for him.

I’m so grateful that we’ve found an activity that clicks with J. It’s taken a few years, but it’s starting to really click. He has a great group of kids who encourage and look out for him every day. He has group of coaches that do the same thing. Looking at all of the experiences he’s had the last three years, I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked when I hear J identify himself as a runner.

3 years ago–June 2015, when we started this whole running thing.

J’s got many labels that follow him around—autism, anxiety, adhd, and more. I love that he’s got a new one—one he’s chosen for himself.




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  • Carol Forster

    This entry is definitely a reflection on both you and Steve as the wonderful parents who introduced him to this sport and consistently supported, encouraged and ran by him, every step of the way, literally. Pat yourselves on the back, “you done good!” Yes, he had great kids and coaches all along they way, as well, but you are the ones who never gave up and can proudly see the fruits of your labor. You are J’s foundation… you are his tree.

    • sarahwbeck

      Aww, thanks Carol! You were there when we first started this whole running thing! Thanks for the encouragement and support along the way 🙂

  • Heather M Jolley

    Love this! BTW, the picture of him three years ago–he looks SO young. He’s so grown up now. Congrats to both of you on another success!