Monday, January 30, 2012

Two Great Loves: Running and Down Syndrome.

Fact: If you are one of those people who has said, "I could never run a marathon," you need to read this post.

When I was pregnant with Ellie, I was directed to Missy's list of Things To Do Instead of Worry.  One of those things was "Google your favorite hobby + Down syndrome."

"Down+syndrome+marathon" led me here.  I was overjoyed to learn about a man with Down syndrome running 26.2 miles, but what about the women?  I said that I wanted an example for my daughter, but I know I really wanted an example for me.  I wanted to know that my baby, even with her extra chromosome and her repaired heart, could participate in my favorite sport someday.  (If she wants to.  But of course Ellie wants to be a runner, right?)

(I think it's obvious that Ellie wants to run.)

When Blair Williamson posted something about a woman with Down syndrome training for a marathon on his Facebook page, I jumped for joy, then got in touch with him.  I learned that two women with Down syndrome are currently training for the LA Marathon on March 18.

Meet Antoinette Mendoza, 43.  Meet Angela Armenta, 25.   I named them "Team Awesome."

(Photos via Crowdrise, with permission.)

These women already finished the Rose Bowl Half Marathon.  Check out the video here.

On Saturday night, I was honored to speak with Antoinette and Angela, and their coach, Jennifer, along with some of Angela's wonderfully supportive family members.  I was grinning the entire time, because the conversation was such a great example of "more alike than different."  They are running as a fundraiser, like many other first-time marathoners.

Angela and Antoinette are learning about nutrition, running intervals, and talked about feeling proud, tired, and receiving their beautiful medals.  We laughed about listening to the coach, walk breaks, and tired feet.  Angela and Antoinette train with the ARC, an organization that serves people with developmental disabilities.  The ARC's marathon training program began when one of the adults with disabilities expressed an interest in running.  The rest is history in the making.

Angela came into the marathon training thanks to a conversation between her brother and Jennifer.  Jennifer shared that no woman with Down syndrome had run a marathon.  Angela's brother talked to her, and she'll toe the line on March 18.  Angela's mom shared with me that she initially was concerned for Angela, who was born with a hole in her heart that closed when she was five.  The cardiologist cleared her for the marathon.

Antoinette has two friends from the ARC who have run five marathons between them.  She wanted to join the fun.  She ran her half marathon in 3:18.  Just for fun, I threw that time into an age-grade calculator.  Thirty-five percent, not too shabby for "low tone" and "decreased metabolism," two oft-cited traits of people with Down syndrome.

According to Jennifer, who is training the ARC group, these women are training hard, achieving dreams, and bringing hope to the community.  They've provided support at other races, passing out water and Gatorade, and by doing such, are becoming a real part of the running community. Additionally, exercise is important for cognition in adults with Down syndrome (and in all adults!) and I can't think of any better exercise.  Note: I may be biased.

Ellie certainly is inspired and ready to run.  Angela and Antoinette, thank you for setting an example for my daughter and for runners everywhere.

("Angela and Antoinette, let's race!")

SoCal runners - if you want to join Team ARC in the LA Marathon, or if you have any extra watches, running store gift cards, sweet shoes, etc. laying around you'd like to give to Angela and Antoinette, shoot Jennifer an email

P.S. Have you checked out Ellie's birthday wish yet?

**Sharing this again in August 2012 at With A Little Moxie**
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  1. Miss Ellie, I think those shoes are a tad too big for you. Tell your mama that you want Ellie-sized tennis shoes.

  2. that officially gave me sweaty eyeballs. sooo inspiring and amazing. and what beautiful hearts full of determination!!

  3. So great! And I am thinking she'll be running very soon (Ellie, that is). Although she may need some smaller running shoes.

  4. The pictures of Ellie in your shoes are PRICELESS!


  5. Love is story and the picture of Ellie in running shoes! Look out! Shannon

  6. are always so cutely dressed...tell momma it is time for running shoes :-)

    Love the story. Thank you for sharing!

  7. I love the pictures. Great to see perseverance!

  8. Just love the picture in the red dress!! Thanks for posting!! I'm glad I read it :-)

  9. Hi Megan,
    I love the picture of Ellie in her red dress and wearing your running shoes.She is precious. I wanted to thank you for writing this story about Antoinette and my daughter Angela. She was very excited when I told her where you live. She continues to train for the marathon. This Sunday she will be running a 10k with her sister Rebecca, through Chinatown. This is part of the LA Marathon route. We will keep you posted as to her progress. I loved reading about your journey.

  10. We just wanted to update you and let you know that Angela and Antoinette both completed the LA Marathon yesterday. Angela's story has been documented through photos and blogs her siblings have put together on


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