An Unexpected Race Day Connection

After the BAA 5K in my AT Cure Team shirt
After the BAA 5K in my AT Cure Team shirt

She asked if she could take a photo of my shirt because she  knew so few people who would know what my shirt meant.


Let me back up. I was in Boston to run the BAA 5K this past Saturday. Not as glamorous as the Boston Marathon, but a lot less training intensive. Plus, you can finish a 5K in well under an hour. I went into it hoping I would have a few weeks of solid training and that I could run at a decent pace, but I had been feeling horrible in the weeks leading up to the race. I had spent the past four-and-a-half weeks battling a hacking cough/cold/sinusitis that made running difficult if not miserable every time I went out. So, I came to the race with one goal: finishing.


I was hanging out with my friend under a tent before the race because it was a rainy morning, when a woman approached me and asked to take a picture of my shirt. On the front my shirt read “AT Cure Team.” She explained that her son’s friend’s sister has AT, and at 12 years old is now in a wheelchair. She said she knew very few people who knew about AT and wanted to take a picture to share with her son’s friend’s parents and show them that there are people out there who understand.


AT stands for ataxia-telangiectasia. AT is genetic, typically manifests itself before five years of age, and leaves many children in need of a wheelchair by adolescence. You can read more about AT here.


I told the woman about my nephew who had AT and passed away last summer right after his 18th birthday. She started to tear up. A man listening to us asked about AT so she and I told him about AT, describing some of the symptoms and challenges that kids with AT face.


If you go to a road race you’ll see a mix of shirts from other races as well as runners wearing cause shirts, many related to medical conditions such as cancer. You’ll see groups of runners with pictures of their lost loved ones on their shirts. You’ll see blind runners running with guides, and people challenging themselves to run with a blindfold in order to understand running while blind.


I picked the AT shirt out of a pile of shirts I could have chosen. And by choosing that shirt I made a brief connection. It was a reminder that what you wear can matter even in ways that you may not intend, and a reminder to keep running no matter how slow I was going that day.

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