Runner with Cerebral Palsy: 'Nothing She Can't Do'
WASHINGTON -- Washington, D.C., is a place known for running and not just for public office. Visit the city and you will see people pounding the pavement at all times of the day.
"I went to the gym to get into shape, to do better for myself," Jamie Watts, a local runner, told CBN News.
Watts never set out to be a runner.
"After training about six months in the gym, I said we have a lot of those races here in the D.C. area. I bet one of those would be really fun to do," Watts recalled.
She signed up for her first race in 2012.
"And so then I did one and then another and another," Watts said. She quickly got hooked.
"I amassed this incredible, amazing group of running friends and they just encouraged me along the way," Watts explained.
Despite her enthusiasm, she's not your typical runner. Born with cerebral palsy, Watts has her own unique stride.
"I guess somebody might look at my life externally and say, 'Oh, isn't that too bad' or 'Isn't that unfortunate.' But I think disability, just like everything else, is a life experience. And it's a cultural way that you view the world around you," Watts said.
Easy to spot in a crowd, she tends to invite cheers from onlookers and fellow runners.
Eva Evans, a fellow runner, said, "When you're out there and you're thinking, 'Oh, my leg is sore,' then you see someone like her. She's very inspirational."
On her last birthday, Watts set out to run 34 races in her 34th year. To finish before the course closed, she started two hours before anyone else.
CBN News was there as she crossed the finish line and met her goal. Her best friend, Katie Comer, flew in from Texas to cheer her on as well.
"Jamie Watts is my hero!" Comer said. "She's the most positive, upbeat, caring, generous person I've ever met in my life," she continued.
It's part of her professional life, too. Watts works to help people with disabilities find jobs.
"In no way would I ever attempt to speak for all people with disabilities. I don't," she told CBN News. "But if I can lend a voice to something that needs attention or change the way one person interacts or thinks about interacting with people with disabilities, that's a fantastic thing."
Comer is convinced there's nothing Watts can't do.
"She and I went to Ecuador this past summer and she climbed a volcano, a smile on her face the whole time," Comer recalled. "She does not let anything stop her or slow her down."
And Watts, who's gained more confidence as a runner, believes that too.
"I have learned that I can do anything that I set my mind to," Watts declared.
She may never win first place, but Watts is proof that certain runners do stand out such as the elite racers who lead the pack, those who play to the crowd, and others, like Watts, who simply inspire.