As moms go, Michelle Gentis is a pretty remarkable one. Not only is she training to run a full marathon, she's going to do it while pushing her wheelchair-bound son.
It's largely the Vancouver-based mom's 'can't beat 'em, join 'em' attitude that sparked her desire to run with her son, Joshua, who is severely physically disabled.
"We experienced a number of heart-breaking moments when I had to pull him off a soccer field so the boys could play ... With tears streaming down his cheeks (and mine) we loaded into our wheelchair van and went home," recalled Gentis. "My son loves people and can't talk. He loves sports and can't walk. What is a boy and a mom to do?"
Tired of seeing Joshua pushed to the sidelines, and upset that he couldn't participate in so many activities with his able-bodied peers, Gentis decided to make it happen.
As a single mom with a disabled child, Gentis says that not taking care of herself is "a luxury I can't afford." Her training schedule includes a minimum of three runs a week, but flexibility is a must with Joshua's appointments and various work commitments.
"Sometimes I need to be very creative to get these workouts in," admits Gentis. "Sometimes it's a real fight with myself to fit them in when life is too busy. I've learned it's important for me to always have a goal to work towards."
Right now that goal is the Boston Marathon qualifier, which takes place in Toronto in October. Drawing her inspiration from Rick and Dick Hoyt, an American father-son team who participated in marathons together, Gentis began training, and in 2008 she and Josh ran their first half marathon thanks to a borrowed jogger.
Both mom and son were hooked. Thus Team Joshua was born. Funds raised by Team Joshua will go toward a special racing chair for sport-loving Joshua, and hopefully to set up a foundation to provide mentoring and coaching for disabled children. To help them achieve their goal, please visit www.teamjoshua.ca.
If they make Boston, Team Joshua will be only one of three teams to ever qualify with a wheelchair, and the first and only to do so with a woman at the helm. For Gentis, the best part of competing is the joy it brings her son.
"Staying involved in the community," she says, "getting out there and doing as many things as we can together has gone a long way in helping Josh (who has every reason to be really frustrated) actually be a very happy kid."
So the next time you're struggling to drag your butt out for a paltry 5K, watch this video of Gentis and Joshua. I know I will.