Sarah Hart, who started the Nashville chapter, says that running with Khayyam in Nashville is like running with a celebrity everyone wants to cheer for. “Everyone knows her. She’s waving her hand in the parade wave. It’s beautiful.”
Hart adds that even in the Nashville heat, she has never heard Khayyam complain. “I want to thank you,” she says to Khayyam. “I have learned more from [Khayyam] and Achilles, probably, than you have learned. I am so grateful for you.”
Lupita Hernandez organized a new chapter of Achilles in 2019 where she lives in Tucson, Arizona. Hernandez, who was born blind, recalls what it felt like to be left out growing up. “I would listen to the other kids playing sports I wasn’t able to participate in. And I vowed that I would be in sports when I got older. I said to myself, you’re going to do all the things you didn’t get to do in middle school and all throughout high school.”
And she did. As a college student, Hernandez bought a tandem bike and started cycling. “I did Tour de Tucson Mountains and many other rides and really enjoyed myself. It was a lot of fun. I wanted to try to do something different so I got into running.” She sought out guides to run with, and transitioned to completing triathlons.
Hernandez says it was important to create the Tucson chapter because she wanted to expand that community.
“I think that’s why I like Achilles as much as I do. It’s including other people who might not be able to do the sport. For me, walking on a treadmill is great, but going out and getting the fresh air and the smells and talking to somebody as I am running makes the sport so much more fun. I always have somebody by my side. I like that.”
The regular structure of Achilles is helpful for athletes like Hernandez and her crew. With an organized group of disabled athletes and volunteers coming together, runners who need guides have regular, dependable access to the sport. “For me if I’m having a difficult time finding a guide, I might say, well, I’m just not going to do that. I didn’t want others to feel down and feel hopeless.”