Eyes on the Prize

May 19, 2011

Karen Dickerson says she's most at home when her running shoes are pounding the pavement. Six days a week, several miles a day, all year long.  She's always trying to improve -- her time, her form, her endurance.

Karen Dickerson running on a track

Karen has run in at least nine different marathons – and is known for a finishing time under four hours.

Karen has won many a race and improved her endurance enough to become a marathon runner.  But really, each time she laces up her running shoes and crosses the finish line, Karen is a winner. That's when she shows the world that she – and all those with intellectual disabilities – can do anything they put their minds to when given a chance.

Karen's parents, Ernestine and Joe, first realized Karen's drive and persistence years ago, back when Karen was a small baby, struggling to thrive. At age 1, Karen weighed 12 pounds. “She didn’t eat, she didn’t really grow at all that first year,” Ernestine says. “She didn’t even start walking until after she turned 2.” But Karen's parents didn't give up -- and neither did she. Then, years later, Karen found her niche on the track.


Karen Dickerson after running the Boston Marathon

Discipline and confidence learned on the running track helps Karen in all aspects of her life.

Happy Accident

Karen discovered her love of running almost by chance.  In middle school, a teacher let Karen go outside and run on the school track because Karen didn’t like hearing the loud whistles and bells in the noisy gym. The teacher thought Karen was a terrific runner and urged her to start running competitively.

Karen has now been with Special Olympics 15 years. During that time, she's run in at least nine different marathons, including the Boston Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon -- each in less than four hours! And next month, she'll go all the way to Athens, Greece to compete with athletes from all around the world.


A Champion in Life

Karen says Special Olympics has changed life by giving her the opportunity to travel and to meet people who have become very special and important to her. The discipline and confidence she's gained have even helped her with her job at the local grocery store.

At the young age of 23, Karen has shown a type of persistence and courage that few people will ever know. In her years with Special Olympics, Karen has broken the most difficult barrier – rising above the misperceptions placed on her and the millions of others with intellectual disabilities.

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