High Desert Relay isn’t like any other 5k event; it’s a relay race with teams of four to six people covering 47 majestic miles in Central Oregon. It requires training, planning and teamwork from every team.
Team Rebounders isn’t like any other team; three members of their crew – Michelle Garrett, Cathie Baker and Kat Hill are also living with Parkinson’s. They were accompanied by their husbands and Michelle’s son, Hayden, to round out the team.
So “not today Parkinson’s” was just that. On race day the focus for this team was on teamwork and communication. It was proving that you can set a goal and absolutely crush it. But the team wasn’t always so confident that they’d be able to participate in a 47-mile race.
“So many times, people with Parkinson’s think or say they can’t do something because of their disease,” says Kat.
That was true for Michelle, who had stopped participating in races because of her beginning stages, undiagnosed Parkinson’s symptoms. Though Michelle had been an avid runner and participated in many races, she retired her running shoes around 2014 because of intense pain and discomfort in her foot, caused by dystonia, which hadn’t been identified yet.
But Michelle decided to give the relay a shot, to help support the Brian Grant Foundation and get back to an activity that she loves. She formed Team Rebounders and recruited her friends, Cathie and Kat. They trained together and with the support of their husbands, participated in a once-in-a-lifetime 12-hour adventure.
Michelle had the 5am starting leg of the relay, in the darkness of the early morning. Michelle said, “the relay gave me a chance to face the demon of dystonia out there.” With her best friend and husband by her side, telling silly stories, she was reminded to “take in the moment.” She said, “it’s so rewarding knowing no matter how I was going to get there, I knew I was going to get there, even if I was crawling. Every day is an opportunity to win.”
Picture below is the team at the finish line. Left to right: Ken, Kat, Michelle, Hayden, Cathie, and Dan.