Track and Field Special Olympics

“Let me win, but if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt


I spent much of the day on Friday at the Track and Field Special Olympics where Cody competed with his fellow high school classmates as well as several others from surrounding area schools. It’s always a treat to see the faces of the athletes light up at the smallest accomplishment. They find joy in hearing their name called out or at a ribbon being placed around their neck. The place or time doesn’t even matter to many of them, they are simply happy to be present. For many of the approximate ten years that Cody has participated in the Special Olympics, this has been his attitude. He’s always gone at his own pace with no awareness of competing or what the concept of winning even means. As a person who is ultra competitive this was often such a struggle for me, especially because I knew the potential was there with Cody. He just needed to realize it for himself. In the last year something clicked. It’s probably from his new love of video games and game shows that he realizes winning is pretty fantastic and exciting and a whole lot of fun. For me it’s another assurance that autism doesn’t have him completely, that it doesn’t have a hold on his emotions and feelings like it has in the past. He has a new awareness. Sometimes it shows as shyness to perform in front of others or in the case of the Special Olympics, a desire to finish first, but it’s there inside of him and as his Mom I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels. Often as parents of kids with autism we are told they won’t show emotion or want to be hugged or touched so when Cody does, my heart bulges and I’d like to say in your face to the person who created that list that groups all kids with one diagnosis together.  As parents we have to ignore those lists and focus on our children as the individuals that they are and the potential they carry inside of them. I push Cody very similarly to the way I push his younger brother. They both have unique needs and abilities, autism or no autism.

As we were waiting for Cody’s events, his Dad and I talked to him about running really fast and doing the best he could do. We talked about which point on the track his race would begin and where it would finish. Cody was excited and eager to to take his place at the starting line for his first race, the 400 meter run. He ran hard and fast, sprinting the entire way around the track. When he finished the race he was holding his side, a sign to me that he had arrived as a runner. I know, you might think I’m evil and mean, but as a runner I often felt that kind of discomfort that comes from running a really great race and leaving it all on the track. I certainly don’t wish to see my son in any pain, but this was something he had never experienced before – what a body of an athlete sometimes feels. Oh, and he won that race – high five Cody, high five! He stood proudly on the podium as they announced his name and placed the ribbon round his neck, like they do for every single Special Olympian. It’s the proudest of moments to see, I promise you, as they have their time to shine for everyone to see.

First place!


Cody’s next race was the 200 meter dash, which came very quickly after the 400. He had barely walked off the cramp in his side and received his ribbon when it was time to line up for his next race. Again he ran hard and fast, this time finishing in second place. As he approached me at the finish line I expressed what a great job he did and told him I was so proud! His words, I lost… oh well, caused my heart to sink a little. Realizing this was a time that his autism mind only got the black and white, the obvious – there’s a winner and a loser. I explained that no he didn’t lose, but that he had finished in second place and he did a great job! I showed him the same excitement I did when he finished first and I’d show him the same if he had finished last because as a Mom that’s what I do. Just because I’m deeply competitive doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a job well done and when it comes to my kids, it’s my job to always, always show them I’m proud no matter what. What I love though is that this somehow lit a spark in Cody. At some point while waiting for his third and final race of the day, the 1 kilometer walk, he looked at his Dad and said, I want to win. I get a little teary as I write that. It’s so much more than I can express in words. Cody has never cared about winning or being the best at anything, not because he doesn’t give a darn, but because he just wasn’t made that way. In most cases, that’s been a good thing, sometimes it’s a gift that autism gave us rather than taking something away.

Paul looked at Cody and said if he wanted to win he has to walk really, really fast. He explained that he can’t run, he can only walk, but it had to be really fast. With 17 athletes competing, it was bound to be a great race. I had to smile when I saw Cody edge his way to the front of the group at the starting line so he could start at the front of the pack. With a race that would last for two and a half laps of the track, he would need to pace himself, but this was a concept way to abstract for him to grasp. He burst from the starting line, as did many of the other racers. At six feet tall he has an amazingly long stride, and that combined with the arm pumping he was doing, made for a really great, but fast pace. For the first entire lap there were a couple of other competitors in front of Cody, but he pushed on, arms moving, stride fast and smooth. Then out of nowhere he passed the racer in second place then the one in first place, to take the lead. It was so exciting to see him realize he was in first place and see him smile as so many people cheered him on from the sidelines, including his classroom teachers from where he attended elementary school many years ago. Ultimately he finished about half a lap ahead of anyone else and nearly lapped a couple athletes before crossing the finish line (yes I like that part because I’m super competitive, remember?). He raised his hands into the air and pumped his fists, possibly because he knew he won or possibly just because he finished. Either way, his Dad and I were proud.

Cody came home with two blue ribbons and a red ribbon, but more importantly he came home with a new competitive spirit that I for one hope he never loses.


Cody's ribbons


  1. Cathy-what a beautiful post about your son, Cody. You must be so proud. I agree-it is impossible for your son to fit into one box or list-he is his own, unique person and he certainly proved that this weekend. Go Cody-keep on running!
    Lori Popkewitz Alper recently posted..A Mother’s Day Gift to My BoysMy Profile

  2. Way to go Cody!!! I admit that post brought tears to my eyes. Heck he would probably do better than I in any of those races. 🙂
    Alison recently posted..Bring Your Family to Six Flags with Polly-O and KRAFT String and Twists! Plus Giveaway!My Profile

    • Thank you so much Alison! I’m so truly touched that you were moved by this post. P.S. Cody can probably beat me in any of those races as well. 😉


  1. […] should have known that one of my most devoted members of my community would write a post so ordinary about a day so extraordinary that I’d be teary eyed and smiling rea… Cathy is the mom of Cody, an athlete in the special olympics. She writes: At some point while […]

  2. […] Olympics. I’ve found facts about it that I hadn’t before known, I’ve been moved by stories of success and sat at my desk cheering GO TEAM […]

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    […] shared before that Cody is a Special Olympian. If you have the opportunity to attend a Special Olympics for any sport at least once in your […]

  4. […] many of us, but for someone like Cody, someone with autism, it didn’t always come naturally. When I began to see it emerge in Cody, though, it was truly magical because it felt like a hint of normal that so many of us crave to see […]

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