Ainsley’s Angels of America: rolling with the wind

Not “rolling,” the word “flying” is more appropriate when describing what happens during an Ainsley’s Angels (AA) race event.

Ainsley’s Angels is a nonprofit organization, active in 60 cities, 30 states. Their mission: “in addition to ensuring everyone can experience endurance events, Ainsley’s Angels of America aims to build awareness about America’s special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life. Serving as advocates to providing education and participating as active members in local communities, we believe that everyone deserves to be included.” – https://ainsleysangels.org/

I discovered AA while I was living in Northern Virginia, just a few miles away from D.C.’s Washington Monument. I noticed bright pink chariots being enthusiastically driven down the Marine Corps Marathon race course, which I was participating in. Runners cheered for the AA teams, which were composed of two to three runners and one rider athlete. The teams were cheerful and fun! At another running event (it might have been for Team RWB), I met Kim Rooster Rossiter and another lady, connected to AA. My husband and I got the organization’s information and signed up to run our first race with the group a few months later. Signing up is very easy, FYI. * AA is always looking for runners and athlete riders! *

My time with the group has been AMAZING. So far, I’ve participated in two Cherry Blossom Ten Milers (2017 and 2019) and the Annapolis Zooma Women’s Half Marathon (2017). – I’ve clapped at other events for them. The Women’s Half was my favorite of the three. Our male runners and athlete riders could participate, even though it was a women’s race. Annapolis is a beautiful city to run through, we ran over bridges, past boating marinas and historic parts. The course had some good hills in the residential section and across the bridges, which I loved pushing my little buddy Mikie up with my teammates. We jammed to The Red Hot Chili Peppers from my phone and danced as we ran. We got other runners around us involved and inspired them to keep moving. Mikie, a young fella, fell asleep at one point of the race, but during the rest of it was giving high fives and first bumps. – those are his signature moves!

Finish line feels!

I also had the pleasure to run with him during my first Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate… I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about handling the chariot on an extremely crowded course with multiple turns, but it always turns out okay and we’re safe! Mikie’s mother trusted us. The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler course weaves through Arlington and D.C.. Monuments and sites to see from every angle. For the main event, the Cherry Blossom trees were in bloom around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park / Hains Point. The atmosphere and course entertainment was on fire. Crowds cheered and aid stations and performance groups competed for “best” titles. We cheer and clap for our own teams throughout the race. As always, with the remaining mile or two of every race, you run with your best effort with your team and try to sprint across the finish line.

At my second Cherry Blossom Ten Miler (2019) [#SpotlightSaturday episode 166], I met Katherine and we are now friends on Facebook! She was a Psychology major, same as myself, and fun to talk with, always smiling. It was her first Cherry Blossom race and she was excited to see the blossoms, which were in peak bloom! – I made sure to take pictures with my phone. This race was personally challenging because I was in my sixth-ish month of pregnancy, so I was slowing down and hungry by mile five, even though I ate a GU gel or two and had water and Gatorade. Pregnancy is a crazy thing and will suck the life out of you! Being an ultramarathon runner, I’m used to “running on empty.” I joked and yelled to other racers, “who wants to feed the pregnant lady?!” “Now taking food donations for the pregnant lady!” People were amused, and I did not get fed. Our team was energetic and partied the entire time, it was exhausting, ha ha! My teammates supported me when I hit a slump and fell back to run slower for a mile. We clocked a 9:00-something minute per mile for the majority, passing other runners the entire way, our spirits carried us! We definitely have some great memories of this one!

A few words about the runners, athlete riders and families involved… they are so friendly and loving! The AA events reflect exactly the organization’s mission, and this can’t happen without the community, without all these people! The inclusion and the diversity. Everyone may be sleepy during the early morning race prep, getting the chariots ready, making sure tires are ready to roll. There is sometimes little chitchat, but as the start time gets closer, everyone wakes up and catches up with old friends and makes new friends. New teams are formed and group photos taken. Some times, massive group photos. And Spotlight Saturday, which you can find out more about online and watch the episodes on YouTube. It’s always a good time, cold or hot, drizzle or shine.

What are the chariots like? The chairs are slightly tough to steering, I use my body weight, pressing down on the forearm rests and handles that your hands grip in order to keep moving in a straight direction. Because, you know, there are cracks, uneven pavement and holes. For turnarounds, pop a wheely! This is a full body workout, not just running. Avid race runners can think of this as a race to prepare for a race. The chairs have brakes similar to bicycle ones. And a parking break, don’t forget to release it before moving! Riders travel in style and comfort. Some people decorate their chair and have a flag with their name. Being cozy with a blanket is popular. The chariots have storage and pockets for stashing food and phones. The chariots are very nice, which brings me to this next point, they are expensive.

Preparing for the Annapolis Zooma Women’s Half Marathon.

Funding for the chariots, I actually don’t know a lot about this, but if you’re interested in donating towards a chariot for a family, please reach out. I know it would be greatly appreciated!! Athlete riders and their families look forward to every race and this is THEIR TIME to take a breather and enjoy an epic race event. Check the AA website or ask a family, they are open to sharing.

AA has affected my life in a number of ways. I’ve learned more about people and have grown, personally. I’ve made friends. I have made a difference in someone else’s life and they have made a difference in mine, all because we decided to come together. If AA sounds like something you can fly with, check it out! All paces and experiences are welcome. AA is always looking for people to join. Pass this information along, we all know someone who could be involved and benefit! Together, we shall!

Cherry Blossom Ten Miler 2019

Website:

https://ainsleysangels.org/

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