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Getting There?and Beyond

Editor's Note: Shelley Ann Morris is Secretary of AEBC's Ottawa-Gatineau, Ontario, Chapter, and works at Volunteer Ottawa as a Recruitment and Referral Services Coordinator.

Athletes know it takes determination, sacrifice and unshakable faith to get to competition, not to mention support from the people in their lives. Many athletes aspire to improved performance, with excellence always being just one more event away. Low vision has not prevented me from conquering the CN Tower's 1776 stairs or from being committed to a healthy lifestyle, resulting in my being a physically fit 47-year-old. Stair climbing, which began as a dare from my sister Colleen, has evolved into a lifestyle choice for me, and while it's said that the average fit person can complete the CN Tower climb in 30 minutes, my goal has been to get it done in 20 or less!

To get there, along with eating a healthy diet, I am a regular participant at the Dovercourt Recreation Centre in a variety of classes. Last December, when Ottawa was plunged into a 51-day transit strike, I began to include walking as part of my exercise/training plan, often trekking the 6-? kilometres to and from the rec centre on foot, until a fellow classmate, Poovai, started driving me. We would often stop off at a local produce store on the way home for fruit and veggies. In addition, I attend a new aerobics program for blind and partially sighted people that recently began at the Jack Purcell Community Centre, where the instructor provides verbal cues, and with the help of volunteers, we all get a great workout!

April 18, 2009, marked this year's CN Tower climb in support of the World Wildlife Federation. It also marked my 15th race, my sister Colleen's 6th, and our friend Ian's 4th. Whenever Colleen and I participate in the climb, we stay with our friend Diane and her son Ian in Scarborough, our home away from home, and this year our friend Maria fed body and soul with delicious bean pie and helped Diane cheer us on. While the CN Tower's atrium was crowded with participants and we were nearly shut out because the event was almost full, officials took pity on us as we were from out of town. They "banded" us like birds, and then we were on our way!

As we waited for our time cards to be stamped, signalling our start, I told Ian and Colleen that we would do well. We constantly encouraged each other onward and upward during the climb, giving it our best effort, but by floor 100 I felt as though my legs were made of lead! Yet the clock was still ticking. By floor 120, my ability to breathe and think straight was fading. In the distance, we could hear clapping and cheering and knew that the end was near, but I knew I wasn't going to make my 20-minute goal. Suddenly, Ian sailed past us to complete his race in 21 minutes 07 seconds. Colleen and I staggered in at 21:45 and 21:36 respectively.

I was so proud of my running mates! And while this climb was not my best, it was not my worst either. I know I have better finish times ahead of me. I feel the drive, passion and sheer desire that burns within every athlete's soul, and I know I will reach my goal if these important people continue down the road to victory with me!

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