Team Ari is the mother/daughter endurance duo made up of Kelli and Ari Tanghe. As the mom, Kelli pushes Ari in an adaptive racing chair with Ari serving as the C.I.O., aka Chief Inspiration Officer. Their goal is to raise awareness for the inclusion of physically challenged athletes in endurance events and their story inspires us all to keep crossing those finish lines!
Team Ari - By Kelli Tanghe
Ari is much like any other 15 year old except she was born with Cerebral Palsy & Visual Impairment. As a mom I watched her endure years of Physical Therapy, braces, botox, and persevere thru many medical challenges. Her struggles made me realize that my body was capable of so much more. So, I made a promise to myself 9 years ago that I would no longer take my body for granted. On a cold winters day in a therapy clinic surrounded by a dozen Physical & Occupational Therapists I watched in eager anticipation as my almost 6 year old daughter took her first unassisted step. Amidst all the clapping and high fives there wasn't a dry eye in that room. That was all the motivation I needed.
The next day I laced up my running shoes. I started to run with Ari's older siblings who were teenagers and running soon became our family therapy. For years Ari patiently sat on the sidelines always asking, "how many miles did you run?" and "what did you see on your run?" Later those questions turned into "when canI run with you?" In 2012, Team Ari rolled into existence as we were able to race our first 5k together. I pushed Ari in her wheelchair. Ari loved running and found a sense of freedom she hadn't experienced before. As we crossed the finish line she put her arms up in a victory pose and before I could catch my breath said, “When can we race a marathon?” As I fought back tears of joy Ari exclaimed, “Mom, running makes my disability disappear!”
In 2013 we took on our Celebrate 13 Challenge. We decided to honor Ari becoming a teen by racing 13 half-marathons. We contacted the Mermaid Series as we wanted to participate in the Mermaid East Bay half. We trained and carefully prepared for race day. What we weren't prepared for was to be greeted at the start line by a crowd of enthusiastic women and girls. Music was playing, Ari was dancing in her chair and the positive vibe could be felt by everyone from volunteers to spectators, and athletes. We found our Happy Pace with this group and we knew we could celebrate athletes of all abilities with the Mermaid Series.
Since then we have competed in 4 races with this great race organization. Our favorite is the Mermaid San Francisco 10 mile race. The course takes athletes thru Crissy field, the Presidio, and over the majestic Golden Gate Bridge! We will never forget the care and consideration that Carlo Facchino, owner and Race director of the Mermaid Series provided us. When we excitedly requested to race in San Francisco he personally ran the stairs under the Golden Gate Bridge to count how many steps were there and make a plan so we would not encounter any barriers on race day. Now that's a Race Director making courses accessible for all. And did I mention that the Shirts and bling you receive at Mermaid races are the best?!
Fifty races later, including thirty one half-marathons and two full marathons, we are still running together as a Team. Thankfully Ari never stopped asking to run, she is quite persistent, No matter how many times we toe the start line we still get goose bumps. We are always inspired by the outpouring of encouragement, support, & positive vibes. We've met and shared the road with extraordinary individuals. We've high-fived the elite athletes and crowds at the finish line. We've heard remarkable stories from families like ours who dream to run too. We've spoken with runners just starting their training and setting goals to finish a first race. Its not easy, some days may be harder than others, life may throw you a curve, or two! Self-doubt may creep in at times. I know that pushing myself & Ari (literally) is hard but a journey worth taking. It requires a dose of persistence. Our mantra is "Yes We Can Cross Any Finish Line!" We know you will cross your finish lines too and are thankful to be a part of the Mermaid Family.
Cheers to Finding Your Happy Pace