Want to be a Better Athlete? Watch Your Local Special Olympics

The People That Help Us Matter (Or, Don’t take Your Running Partner for Granted)

a good training partner

The Special Olympics has several “unified” running events, where a Special Olympics athlete is paced by a partner. The partner is usually a local high school cross-country runner. Often the two athletes become very close.

At last week’s games, Lee County athlete Zach Harris was running with 16-year-old Bishop Verot athlete Johnny Janiak. While they appeared to be in total synch, Harris’ coach, Jim McCaughan, told me that Harris has had a tough time letting go of his high school partner from last year.

Last year, Harris ran with a senior named Katie, said McCaughan. “When Zach qualified for the state meet in the 5k, Katie was actually going to skip her high school graduation—which was the same day but all the way up in Disney World—to run in the meet with him. She was the baccalaureate for her class and when her mom found out, she said, no way.”

Not to be deterred, Harris’ running partner figured out a way to support him. “Katie went to her baccalaureate ceremony the night before the meet, drove up at midnight, got up in the morning, ran the 5-k with Zach—they won gold—and then drove home in time for her graduation. She’s off at college now, but she’s hoping to come back and run with Zach this year if he makes it to states again.”

Chances are your running partner would do the same thing for you. If you haven’t thanked them recently, do it.