Saturday, March 22, 2014

Run Your Heart Away, Sidney

"Do you want to join a Fun Run ?" I asked my 14 year old daughter, Sidney. Being her Mom, I already knew the answer even before I asked though I have to admit I was not really prepared financially for it. When she immediately said yes and added  "running shoes Ma, running shoes" and "Ipod, Ma," that there was no turning back and it was imperative I keep my word or the outcome will not be very good. Words can make or break one's world especially to my free spirited, youngest daughter and that is because she has autism. She has this rebellious streak that when things are too much for her, she has the tendency to leave the house unnoticed despite locked doors and keys being hidden in the most unexpected places, passing thru windows no matter how bad the weather is, only to return once she had grown tired of the outdoors.

My free spirited daughter, Sidney who has autism

" My hair is fine, Ma ."

I really could not recall when or how it started. At two years old, we knew she was different based on how fast she had learned how to read and talk in English even before she went to school. She also had a way of leaving the house unnoticed even during rainy days while the whole family was having their afternoon nap. We will just learn that a kind neighbor had brought her back, all drenched in rain. I thought then she was just like other kids who loved playing outdoors, rain or shine. Until one day I decided to work in the city with two of her sisters, leaving the other four kids to my Mom. Perhaps she  had been greatly affected by the move and the separation, the knowledge that she needed to go to school and adjust with the city life. I had to admit that it was a stage that all of us had to adjust since I will be coming back to work after 13 years in a fast paced industry that had all been very alien to me. Or perhaps I had gotten busy being more of a career woman than as a mom to all of my kids. It was all but natural not to feel guilty especially if you have one kid who goes astray every now and then, who chose not to go to school because she found the lessons too ordinary and boring and chose to be outdoors where she was free, not just literally but figuratively as well.

Through the years, we had learn to accept the fact that Sidney will be leaving home every now and then. We all had learned to create masks and pretend that everything was normal yet it had never been easy especially to her older siblings when they share their stories, especially to the authorities, DSWD centers, internet cafe owners and kind hearted people who call her  Dad so we can pick her up. On my part it was twice painful that I have to continue working and set aside my personal issues when I am at work because of the other six kids who depend on me for everything, my Mom included. Some colleagues and bosses knew my story since day one who were sympathetic enough to understand why I needed to keep going and continue masking my pain because they knew that asking help from foundations or even sending letters of financial assistance had been futile and worthless.

I did not know what had gotten into me when I asked her to join the fun run. Since she practically grew up on the streets and walked more than she stayed at home, she might find the experience challenging and might even be the start of motivating her to go back to school. Not only that, since I had started my journey to fitness, enjoy running and plan to finish even a half marathon before I hit my golden years, it will be a great way to bond not just with her but with her other siblings as well. And so when I  received my salary last Valentine's Day, she knew that we were going to register for the UNILAB RUN UNITED on March 16, 2014. We went to Riovana  in BGC where we got our shirts and the prepaid cards so we can register online. We also bought our running shoes together where she got to choose the purple ones. She also tracked on the number of days remaining before the fun run and we even got to test run her shoes four days before the event in SM MOA where it will be held. When we got our race kits a day before the run, she fell in line with me together with the other runners. After that we went to buy new running socks, a pair of running shorts for her as well as a sports bra from BENCH which she has chosen herself. And even if we were so tired we still bought a loaf of bread so we can at least eat a light breakfast  the next day. We also slept early because we needed to be awake at 3 AM for my 10K run starts at 5AM whereas Sidney's 5K run will be thirty minutes later.

Excited for her first Fun Run

At exactly 3 AM last Sunday, Sidney woke up without difficulty. Together with her eldest sister who will be taking our pictures, we had a very light breakfast and she even ate the banana I gave her without any qualms. We also made sure the Ipod that I had won from a giveaway a year ago was fully charged and even if it was still dark we went ahead to start our day.

On our way to SM MOA

We arrived at BLOCK 16 in SM MOA's ACTIVE HEALTH VILLAGE at 4:30AM. We managed to do some warm ups and took some picture shots. A few minutes later, the 10K runners were told to assemble at the starting line and before I separated with my two daughters, I gave them my final instructions. I also reminded Sidney the things that needed to be followed since she decided to join. I told her to wait for the gun shot, to stay at the right side, not to cheat on her run and that I will see her later. I even kissed her on the cheek where a mark was left which made me smile. And since my race was about to start, I went ahead and joined the other 10K runners.

She complied with our mandatory warm ups to prevent possible injuries

To say that the crowd was enormous was an understatement. Marshals, photographers, runners from all walks of life including the media, sports enthusiasts and family members were all there to witness the first leg of RUN UNITED TRILOGY events for this year. Ambulances, portalets for male and female runners can be found in certain locations so as water stations where you could also find GATORADE in paper cups, bananas and sponges for the 10k and 21K runners on their way back to the finish line. There were also a lot of trash from paper cups, banana peels scattered and thrown carelessly that there was this sudden worry for my daughter who was also running her own race. But then again that was over powered by such trust that she was old enough to take care of herself and that she will be able to make it safe until the finish line.

She was little bit lost among the many 5K runners

I finished my 10K run  in 1 hour and 41 minutes. Not bad for my first run after almost a year when I joined my first 5K run at the GOOD HOUSEKEEPING FUN RUN . As I went to look for my girls, I heard a familiar laugh that came from my eldest daughter. She knew that I was kind of lost because of the huge crowd and that they will be the first to find me. She told me that Sidney finished her 5K run in 32 minutes and 40 seconds based on her Ipod which was captured in film .

Her sister, Sam found her , all flushed and hot after her run

I was so proud of her and tried my best not to be emotional so as not to create a scene.  It was her first time to join such a big event yet she run her heart away and finished what she started all because I kept my word. I knew it was such a risky thing letting her join a fun run among the many runners and walkers, all of them strangers but she was able to pull it through despite her autism.

No sweat !

She said she would run again for 10K the next time

Looking back at that historical event in my daughter's life, I realized that we all have our own races to run and to finish. Sadly we will not be always there to guide our kids and decide for themselves in every hurdle that they face. There will be days that they have to learn on their own and rely on themselves. Such a harsh reality but then again, trust is such a powerful thing, and so is love, patience and understanding. At the end of the day our trust that they know what they're doing, despite the many detours and obstacles along the way will be enough to pull them through. And that among the many races they will run in this life, they will eventually learn how to deal with them, run on their own until they make it to the finish line.

She wrote,  "Im  a 5K Runner, " omitting the apostrophe before the letter m 

Let's go home, Sidney.


  1. what a supportive parent. Sidney is blessed to have you. it is not, as I hear it from parents and guardians, easy to take care of children afflicted with autism. it is a challenge that could really test one's patience and strength.

    congratulations, Sidney!

    - Bing

    1. Hello Bing ! Been a long time since we got in touch. Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving a comment. It was an emotional post to write which I edited three times. I am glad I was able to share it and hope people can find inspiration in it.

      Blessings to you and your family.

  2. Ms. Sarah, sayang I didn't see you during the run...too many people. I only ran in the 5K category. Will be skipping RU leg 2 this Milo na lang ako run ng 10K, maybe.. You must have been very proud of Sidney. Glad that she enjoyed the event. :-)

    1. I was and we are going to run on the same 10K category this June 1st. We also plan on running this July at MILO Fun Run. Hope to see you there !