New SOWI Program Unites Athlete and Volunteer

October 8, 2013

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Wigington from Madison, Wisconsin loves to run, not only in Special Olympics Wisconsin events, but also in his community. This summer, he tied his sneakers and hit the road four times a week, training for the Waunafest 10-Mile Run in late July and the BMO Harris Bank Madison Mini-Marathon in August. 

This spring, Wigington became the first athlete in Wisconsin to participate in a new program—SO FIT!— which promotes community-based training in endurance sports with goals ranging from simply competing in a 5K walk to competing in a triathlon.   The program encourages athletes to train and compete with a non-disabled partner in an open community event. 

Wigington had already found a competition partner last year. When Wigington’ s parents  mentioned to Law Enforcement Torch Run volunteer, Randy Meverden from the Department of Corrections,  that they were worried about him  running alone for such long distances, Meverden offered to bike alongside him during  his race.

 “My biggest concern was to make sure I wasn’t in the way of the other runners,” said Meverden. “But, once I shared that Tyler is a SOWI athlete, they thought that was pretty cool.”

In 2012, Wigington ran in a half-marathon in 2 hours, 4 minutes with Meverden biking alongside him.  According to Wigington, his partner not only motivated him, he watched out for him too.

“My spotter was great,” continued Wigington.  “He made sure I was safe.  He helped me know when to have an energy bar, drink some water for hydration, or even to take a very short break.”

After signing up for SO FIT!, SOWI provided Wigington with a training and performance record so he could log his progress and set and achieve his goals.

“He was definitely better prepared this year,” said Meverden.

And the preparation paid off.  This year, again with Randy biking alongside, Tyler ran his half-marathon in 1 hour, 44 minutes.

 “I was so happy I knocked off about 20 minutes my time from last year,” said Wigington. 

“What I love about this program is that it brings athletes opportunities beyond traditional Special Olympics sports and recognizes them for their training and competition in community events.  It also provides another opportunity to engage volunteers,” said Jessica Chuckel, Healthy Communities Project Director for SOWI. 

Special Olympics Wisconsin recognized Wigington for his achievements in the program with a medal. Wigington may have crossed the finish line, but the race is far from over. Now he’s gearing up to compete in the Haunted Hustle half-marathon in Middleton, Wisconsin on October 27th and has a long-term goal of training for a triathlon at a Special Olympics USA or World Games.

“To get into a triathlon for Special Olympics, I have to work on my swimming and biking, but SO FIT! will help me work on that too.  This is my big goal and tracking my progress helps me know what I am capable of,” he said.

Visit for more information about SO FIT!

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