Harrison Walter’s Race Redemption

Written by Harrison Walter, whose article, “What Running Means to Me,” was published last year. Harrison runs on the varsity high school track and cross-country teams at Custer County High School in Westcliffe, Colorado and regularly competes in trail races. He turns 16 in April and was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum when he was 4. Photo above: Harrison crossing a bridge on course at the 2020 PPRR Winter Series 10K.

One of my off-season races is the Pikes Peak Road Runner’s Winter Series 10K in Colorado Springs. This year’s event was on my redemption list because last year I had a 6-mile running tantrum and a disappointing time of about two hours.

However this year, I didn’t have any tantrums at all, and I ran a much better time of 59:15 on the difficult course. I felt great about this accomplishment.

Harrison being coached by his dad Hal.

Last year, we were in a rush to find a parking spot, get our bibs, and go to the start. Then, I didn’t get my music playlist going on time before the start. Immediately after the race started, I ran off to a nearby building. Later, my dad came and told me to quit my misbehavior and start running. From there, I screamed, I was not running, and was grabbing at my dad. My dad was planning to celebrate by going out to eat after the race. I said that I wanted to bail. My dad said, “That’s fine, but we’ll just go straight home.”

This tantrum continued for quite a while before I finally started running again. But later, the meltdown started back up. But I did run again several yards from the finish until I saw my disappointing time. Then, there was another tantrum, but I did manage to cross the finish.

However this year, I ran the whole course perfectly. I was way better this year than last year. This year, we were well prepared for the race. We arrived early and got our bibs ready, warmed up and I got my music playlist ready on time. After the race started, I started running with the pack. But a little while later, I started developing side aches. I managed to breathe through those and was able to finish the race. There was snow, ice, and mud on the course but I ran through it.

Harrison slipping near the halfway point on the course in the 2019 PPRR Winter Series 10K.

The course was familiar because I ran some of it at CHSAA State Cross-Country Championships. One difference was the start and finish line are not at the stadium. It’s located south of the building. The second difference was that the course went through some tunnels, over a bridge and onto a cement trail along the Fountain Creek.

I have been and will continue doing my best as a runner. And eventually, I will hopefully be able to show what autistic athletes are capable of doing. I will just keep getting better and better. That means reducing side aches, having better form, running with my feet flat, and being aware of my surroundings.

I love being who I am. I enjoy running outdoors in the fresh air. It resets my sensory stuff. It allows me to go to cross country and track meets and be competitive. It also provides the opportunity to be in productions like the Apple Special Event last fall.

Running, in general, is a key in life that unlocks a doorway to ultimate success and allows people to live more healthfully and longer. When I started running, it was something unexpected and unfamiliar for me. But that was only the beginning.

As the years went by, I ran faster and faster until now. And I will proceed with running for the rest of my life. As time goes on, I will eventually get to a point where I won’t need music headphones in races. I will run PRs in cross-country and track.

For ideal running, I must stay healthy. Also, I must practice staying in shape so that I can perform perfectly in my upcoming races, and in life.

When I am all grown up, I will look back at the times I ran in races and feel very happy for my running accomplishments.