Monday, March 29, 2010

Race for Autism — (March 27, 2010)

Today our whole family participated in the Race for Autism in Balboa Park, San Diego. We ran for a cause that is near and dear to our hearts as our oldest child, Nolan, is autistic and has been wonderfully served by the community—including programs which have been directly or indirectly assisted by the National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR), the lead sponsor of this annual event.

We believe that exercise is a crucial component to minding our health and we want to influence our children by helping them see its importance. Here’s the story about how it all went down…

Dan’s Story—

I set the alarm for 5:30 a.m., knowing it was mostly unnecessary because our kids have this blessed habit of waking by 5 o’clock. Sure enough, by 5 the boys were awake going through scenes of their favorite cartoons and stories, each taking their roles from the comforts of their own beds. Of course, since they sleep just across the hall from Maria and me, I heard every word of it. Nice.

I tossed and turned a little, trying to block their voices from my head to soak up the final half hour of sleep due to me, but mostly failed since I was worried the whole time they’d wake their sister earlier than she needed to be awoken.

The clock turned to 5:26… :27… :28… :29… and I thought, ah, forget it… I let the alarm ring, hit the snooze to give Maria an extra ten minutes, and got up to release the hounds.

I started on breakfast for the boys. We needed to be out of the house by 6:45 to make the 8 a.m. start time for the race without having to worry too much about parking. Berkeley woke up about 10 minutes later, followed by Maria. Our house was at full steam and it was still pitch black outside! (Typically morning in the Lai household, actually.)

“What are we doing today?” they asked.

“We have to eat breakfast and get dressed! Today’s—“ I started, when Jackson finished my sentence.

“We’re racing?”

That’s right. As soon as we changed over the kid’s hallway calendar to March, we immediately marked today’s date, Saturday, March 27, 2010, as “A Special Day.” Everyday they’d point to the marked day and ask what it was. And everyday we’d tell them, “That’s the day we’re running in a race. And if you finish, you’ll win a medal.” Everyone would get that wonderful, beautiful smile on their face.

Breakfast was done and it was time to get dressed. Each of our kids was entered in the 1-Mile Family Walk and had official bibs. They were so excited to get to put on their shirts with their numbers attached because they all remembered that morning back in January when mom was dressed and ready to go for the Carlsbad Half Marathon. They, especially Jackson, saw her number and her finisher’s medal and wanted nothing more than to get a medal of their own. The Vancouver Winter Olympics then followed, and they were raring to go with medal fever!

Today was their day. And—what do you know?—it would also turn out to be our day too.

The kids got to hang out with their aunt Elsa (Maria’s sister) at the resource fair, doing crafts and picking up all sorts of free stuff, while we ran the timed 5K race. The course is a loop through beautiful Balboa Park. It’s an interesting loop, however, because it truly feels like it’s entirely uphill—impossible for a loop, but it really feels that way! It was a great day for Maria and me. We both ran our hearts out to our own personal records. Sure, she beat me by 34 seconds, but who’s counting? I blame the final hill. (She must have found a short cut or tunnel or something!)

After finishing, we met up with Elsa and the kids and walked over to the start line for the 1-Mile Family Walk. As we started out, Jackson wanted to know why nobody was running. I told him we were saving ourselves for the end. He seemed okay with the explanation.

By the half-mile mark, we could tell the kids were getting antsy walking so slow. So I started prepping them for our final dash to the finish. That seemed to perk them up a little and the excitement was starting to build. I found a suitable “start” line for me and the kids halfway across the Cabrillo Bridge and lined us all up.


Surprisingly, Nolan, our laziest, err, “mellowest” of the three immediately bolted to the lead, weaving between walkers and strollers and leashes and dogs. We turned the corner where the route flanked a grassy slope. It was too much temptation for a spectacular morning in San Diego, so Nolan went off course and straight down the hill, doing laps around a giant oak. Jackson went chasing after and Berkeley, who was running beside me, started that direction when I called down for the boys to get back on course.

It took about three or four tries, but I finally got them back on course. Jackson and Berkeley took off and rounded the hairpin for the finish line. Nolan took his time returning to the course and ended up squandering his early lead, finishing in third. For him, I blame the temptation of a grassy slope.

It was truly an awesome morning running for Autism—running for our son—and running for our own health and the health of our children.

We believe in setting an example for the importance, fun, and excitement of exercise and physical fitness.

Throughout the week, they see their mom get dressed and ready for her pre-work morning run on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then on Saturdays, we usually all go out to wherever it is she’s training for her long run. I usually take the kids out to breakfast after dropping off Maria and then we mess around wherever it is she’s running (hopefully, the beach!) that day. We hope our children are developing an appreciation for the discipline involved with exercise and being healthy while also finding it fun and invigorating.

Maria’s Story—

There I stood at the start line with my Moms in Motion (MIM) buddy Michele and my hubby. I was so excited to be running with Dan but also terrified since I had not been training for a 5K distance. I’m usually trying to pace myself for longer distances like half marathons (13.1 miles) and haven’t practiced getting a fast time for the shorter 5K runs (3.1 miles). As the National Anthem played, I have to admit I got misty-eyed thinking about my son Nolan. He has come a long way and I am so proud of him. During the race I encountered other fellow MIM gals and exchanged some words with them as I huffed and puffed my way to the finish line. I know I didn’t set any course records today, but I ran my heart out and set my own personal record.

I love running because it is such a rewarding sport—with hard work you can always improve. I love the thrill of going faster and farther.

My kids know that running is very important to me. Every morning Berkeley asks me, “Where are you going today?” as I stagger to the kitchen to fetch my morning coffee. She knows that I will either be getting in my car to go for a run or heading to the back house to weight lift and cross train. She always wants to play with me first thing in the morning but never gives me a hard time for leaving to go exercise. Nolan was actually baffled when I didn’t run for almost the entire month of February when I was recovering from pneumonia. He even ordered me to go run several times, saying things like, “But you like running, mommy.” It is nice to know that my children understand the importance of exercise and adhering to a training schedule.

As parents, our most important task is to set a good example for our children. The best thing I can do to help ensure my kids will live a healthy active life is to SHOW them how to do it. Do as I do, not only as I say.


We’d like to give a special thanks to everyone who joined our team—House of Lai—by running with us, making a donation on behalf of our team, or doing both. Thanks to Elsa Chira (Maria’s sister) for walking with us and watching our lovely kids while Maria and I ran. It’s rare that we ever get to run together; so it was a real treat and blessing to get to do so. Thanks to Michele Price, our son Nolan’s first Sunday School teacher and who also is part of the Moms In Motion running group that Maria’s a part of, for her running with us and donating to the cause. Michele also got a personal record today—great job! Thanks to Adrienne Wadel and her daughter Madeline for joining our team in the 5K walk. What a beautiful sight to see mother and daughter walking together. Thanks to Jace David Hilemon who had to miss the race—after all, he’s just 364 days old and needs his sleep whenever he can get it. Your grandparents Kevin and Sylvia Miller have great expectations for you, buddy! And thanks to our newest nephew and youngest team member at four months of age, Lucas Romo. We’re sure you have your mom (Maria’s sister Diana) and dad doing enough running around for all of us.

For more information about the Race for Autism, see their website at or the website for the National Foundation for Autism Research at


  1. Loved reading your recaps! You can count on us next year! :) What a fabulous example you are setting for your kids....great job.

  2. I just love this...please let me know when this comes around next year as I would love to donate. You two are such awesome parents and set such wonderful examples for your children. God Bless you all! Donna Bixler

  3. Sounds like you had a great time. I love the pictures! Where do you find the time? I admire you both.

  4. Thanks, everyone. You're all officially invited to join the House of Lai team for the 2011 Race for Autism! I'll catch ya when the time comes.

  5. I had a blast. Next year the Price household will be joining the House of Lai team. Looking forward to it. :) Michele

  6. You are my Hero... Great father, Great Husband, and a man after Gods own heart... Thanks for being Brave and Strong for your family... It encourages all of us...Dan C.