Long-distance running is often a solo pastime, but this isn't always the case. While many milers, 4K racers and marathoners train in solitude, Ainsley's Angels runners prefer to train and compete in groups. Ainsley's Angels is an organization dedicated to helping special needs children experience the joy of participating in sporting events before enthusiastic crowds, which gives both the kids and their parents a major lift.
A Difficult Journey
Gladis took up running a few years ago when she was living in Boston. She had been rushed to hospital after being involved in a major car accident, and the constant head and neck pain she suffered during her recovery left her barely able to cope with the pressures of managing her daily routine and raising a special needs child - her beloved son Georgie. Gladis turned to running to get out of her funk and get her life back on track, but the first few weeks were a struggle. This is the point where those of us with less willpower would throw in the towel, but she was dedicated to her son and determined to succeed.
A Fresh Start
A little over five years ago, Gladis made a major decision. The frigid New England winters gave her migraine headaches and made Georgie's spasms worse, so she packed up her things and moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Once she had settled in the Tar Heel State, Gladis started competing in 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. During a Christmas 5K race, she noticed another competitor pushing a child in a pushchair. Gladis asked the runner about competing with her son, and that is how she was introduced to Ainsley's Angels.
Georgie Joins the Team
Gladis was not sure how Georgie would react to competing in public, but the experience completely changed his life. Being cheered on by a supportive and enthusiastic crowd gave Georgie a new lease on life, and he has become much more talkative and gregarious as a result. The love that Gladis and Georgie have for each other and the world is infectious, and their energy nurtures the souls of all who come into
contact with them.
Members of a local gym raised enough money to buy Georgie a special jogging stroller, so now he can train with his mom every day. The duo competed in 5K, 8K, 10K and half marathons so far, and they hope to finish a full marathon before too long.
An Interview with an Inspiration
We sat down with Gladis recently to learn more about her incredible journey and how running with her son provides "Energy for the Soul." Here is what she had to say:
1.Where did you run your first competitive race, and when did you run with Georgie for the first time?
My first half Marathon was New River Half in Todd, North Carolina in 2021. With Georgie it was a big challenge and it was in Hickory called the Charity Chase 5K & 13.10.
My solo half I finished in 1 hour & 42 min and was placed 2nd overall, with Georgie we got 1st place AG & finished our half in 2 hours & 25 min.
Georgie seems to really enjoy all the attention you guys receive while you are running. How much does the crowd motivate you, and what does Georgie do to let spectators know how much their support means to him?
OMG, he loves running; he loves to be cheered for sure! His excitement, big smiles & clapping shows at the finish line every time.
- Do you have a favorite marathon course, or do you think all of them have something special to offer?
I really don’t have a favorite course with my races because with each of them there is a different kind of experience.
4. You and Georgie have pleased crowds all over the country. Do you prefer to train and compete where the weather is hot or where the weather is cold?
I prefer warm weather when I’m running with Georgie since he doesn’t like the cold, and it affects his muscles. Solo, I don’t mind.
5. Some half Marathons start in the early morning, but others do not get going until the late afternoon or early evening. Do you find it easier to run in the morning, or do you prefer races that give you a little more time to prepare?
Morning run, for sure; Georgie’s muscles are more happy in the AM hours, and he’s ready to hit the road.
6. When do you plan to run your next race, and what kind of training are you and Georgie doing to prepare for it?
So, our next one is the Mayberry half marathon on Nov 12th in Mount Airy. We joined last year, and we did the 10k and won 1st place for our AG. Georgie was so happy and was enjoying all the nice scenery, so we decided to go for the Half this year.
Usually, I train twice a week with my personal trainer at South Side & Fitness. He’s amazing and I’ve been training with him for 4 years now. He knows exactly what my goals are, and he tries to build my upper body to have more strength while pushing Georgie.
I take Georgie for long runs twice a week, and I run solo 5-6 times a week.
- You mentioned before that you took up running when you were recovering from a serious car accident? Could you tell us a little bit about the struggles you went through in the early days?
I was in a massive car accident and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital due to severe pain in my neck and head. That’s when I was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, and my whole life changed. I was so stressed out and crying most of the time because I was so scared something was going to happen to me.
I was told not to be stressed and not lift or do anything that can cause your blood pressure to go up. I also was told to avoid migraines as much as possible.
I thought, “You are telling me all this, and I’m a mom for a special needs kid who is handicapped and can barely talk. I was like NO WAY! I won’t
live my life sitting around thinking of all the negative stuff and what could happen. So, I decided to run.
I’ll tell you when I went on my first run, I was talking to myself, thinking and crying. I finally decided to throw all my stress out. I told myself, “I’ve got to be strong and have hope and faith. Georgie needs me and I cannot be weak.”
- How did running with Georgie start? How has this given you "Energy for the Soul" and taken you to new heights?
Running taught me a lot. It taught me how to be happy, experience relief, and feel at peace. AND that I’m capable of doing anything I want.
We used to live in Boston, and the cold weather was really affecting my migraines and Georgie’s spasms, so we moved 5 years ago to North Carolina. I got involved in a lot of 5K and 10k then 1/2 marathons.
One day during my 5K Christmas race, I saw someone pushing his son in a special wheelchair. So, I approached the man and asked him “how can I do that?” And that’s when I was introduced to the Ainsley’s Angels organization.
I joined them and decided to take Georgie on a run with them. That’s when Georgie’s life changed. He was so happy, clapping, cheering everyone one and saying hi to everybody. Georgie is more talkative now, loves people and doesn’t mind the crowd as much.
My local Gym bought Georgie the jogging stroller so we can be able to train anytime we want and now he gets so happy when he knows he’s going for a run. Together we did 5K, 8k, 10k, 13.1. My dream is to be able to do a full marathon with him one day.
We know that you put on a pair TRUEENERGY® socks every time you go for a run, but are there any other items of apparel that you wear to improve your times or help you recover more quickly?
As far as running socks go, I only wear TRUEENERGY® socks now– they are the comfiest socks I have ever tried. I always say socks are the foundation to your shoes, so if you are going to invest in running socks this is where I suggest you spend the money.
They keep your feet sweat free and keep you from getting blisters. They have a special technology that helps your feet recover from runs too. I love them! Also, I tried TRUEENERGY® compression socks on Georgie. Now he is sleeping calmer at night, and his muscles are more relaxed.
For shoes, I love Saucony Endorphins. For hydration, 6AM RUN nutrition formulas are the best. They help eliminate jiggle and bloating, and there is not much caffeine in them. I drink them for pre workout (6AM RUN Sprint or Marathon), depending on how much of a workout and run I’m planning on doing.
For post workout, I turn to 6AM RUN Finishline with amino acids to beat fatigue and 6AM RUN Heel Strike with collagen for quick overall joint recovery. A good massage, a roller and stretching before bedtime definitely help as well. Lastly, I take magnesium and put on TRUEENERGY® compression socks for a comfy sleep and better muscle recovery.
Energy for the Soul
Inspirational athletes like Gladis and Georgie do more than motivate us to do better. They tell us life is worth living and beyond that worth appreciating, no matter the twists and turns our journeys take, and they remind us how trivial so many of our worries really are. The crowds who cheer Gladis and Georgie as they run by are not just applauding determination and effort, they are recognizing and honoring the love and pride a mother has for her very special child.
If you’d like to catch up to Gladis and Georgie to learn more, she posts all her fitness journey and races on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/gladis.daaboul and on IG: @Daaboulgladis