IR4: When Running is More Than Just Exercise

Last weekend we signed up for this really, really awesome Facebook group, called I Run 4 Michael (IR4). It’s a group that pairs up runners and other athletes with kids and adults with physical or developmental difficulties that mean they may not be able to run. It started when the creator was talking about running, and a friend of his, who was battling bilateral hip dysplasia, said “you can run for me anytime!” A group was formed back in 2012, with 10 runners and 10 buddies with special needs. It now has over 30,000 members and over 11,000 matches.

I had originally read about it back when Vivian was first diagnosed with infantile spasms, but at the time we had far too much going on for me to commit to signing Vivian up.

Last week, I saw a post about IR4 again on The Mighty, and decided to finally sign up. I thought we might be on a waiting list for about 6 months or so, but by Friday Vivian was matched with a runner! Vivian’s runner lives 9,130 miles away from us here in New Zealand, and will be attempting to run that many miles for Vivian. She waited 6 months to be matched with Vivian, so there are way more runners wanting to be matched in the group.

It’s a pretty awesome thing knowing that someone across the world from us is running for Vivian and although it may not seem like something special, it really is. The posts in the Facebook group are so heartfelt and come from such a place of love and support. Our runner has been posting updates for Vivian on how far she’s run, and we post updates back for our runner about how Vivian’s day has gone.

I highly recommend signing your child up if you’re a parent of a special needs kid, or if you have any disability or special need yourself.

Every bit of support, whether practical or emotional, really does help in those dark moments, when you’re up worrying or trying to get your little one to sleep, or after a horrible day of battling with whatever problems you are facing. It is an awesome way to take stock of things and realize the progress Vivian has been making each day. I’m sure we will have weeks when our updates might not be as happy, but we will keep on keeping on, and our runner will be rooting for Vivian along the way. A small part of me feels guilty for not running myself, but one day I will get back into exercising!

And if you’re a runner, or someone who enjoys working out, please consider signing up! You might wait for a while to be matched but I can guarantee that it will be a rewarding wait. They also have a related group for siblings of kids with special needs (I Run 4 Siblings: The Unsung Heroes), where they can get matched with a runner, and a third group that matches runners with loved ones lost (Kerri On: I Run 4 Remembrance).

While I don’t know if Vivian will ever understand that someone is dedicating thousands of running miles for her from across the world, but I know Ben and I are so touched by it. We know that Vivian knows she is loved so much, even if she doesn’t know by how many.

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