Try this: Stand on your tippy toes and at the same time, bend one of your legs. Then, go ahead, take a few steps.
It’s not easy to walk this way, as Meikeila Kincaid, who will turn 18 next week, has every day since she was 7, when she walked for the first time in the living room of her Silvis home.
It’s not easy to have her legs.
When Meikeila, who has cerebral palsy, walks, her left foot drags. As her mother Kim says, each step is hard and zaps her energy.
“Most people could do it for a short time,” Kim said. “Imagine doing it your whole life.”
Kim has learned something about her daughter: She doesn’t do things the easy way.
Thousands of spectators found out that same thing about Meikeila last year near the end of the 5k race affiliated with the Quad-Cities Marathon.
With about 100 yards to go, Meikeila got out of her wheelchair, grabbed her mother’s hand and walked. Seeing the struggle on Meikeila’s face, race director Joe Moreno jogged out to hold her other hand.
Together, with their arms joined and held high, they accomplished Meikeila’s only goal that day: Crossing the finish line.
Beyond what is expected
When Kim got back into running about five years ago, her daughter wanted to join. So, they came up with a plan for participating in area 5k races: Kim, or her husband, Dale, or Meikeila’s twin brother, Christian, pushes her in a wheelchair for the first mile and Meikeila walks the second mile. And the final mile? It’s up to her to walk more or get back in her chair.
But, no matter what, near the end, Meikeila walks the final steps with her mother by her side, sometimes essentially holding her up.
“That’s her biggest thing,” Kim said. “She wants to cross the finish line.”
For Kim and Meikeila, who participate in several community races each year, ditching the wheelchair and walking in has become a routine.
To others, such as Moreno, there’s nothing ordinary about seeing Meikeila cross the finish line.
“Non-runners may never understand it, but a marathon is a lot like life. There’s a start and end and there’s trials and tribulations to overcome in the middle,” he said. “For some people like Meikeila, running a 5k is their marathon.”
Meikeila made an instant impression on Michelle Russell, who founded the nonprofit Live Uncommon, at the Silvis Home Run 5K in 2014.
During that race, Meikeila got out of her wheelchair and didn’t just walk. She ran.
“And then she fell right in front of the finish line and right in front of everyone,” Russell said. “There were gasps and people running up to help her, but she wasn’t fazed at all. She got back up and she finished. I was so impressed and moved by that.”
Months later, Kim and her two children joined the nonprofit’s team and wore Live Uncommon gear during the Quad-Cities Marathon.
“Our mission is to inspire people to make this world a better place,” Russell said. “Meikeila and her mom personify what Live Uncommon is all about. It’s about those people who are doing more and pushing further than what is expected.
“To be inspired like that is like a magic pill. You just feel better about the world. I know she made my day.”
When Meikeila was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, her mother’s first thought was, “Can she still get married and can she have kids and be able to do everything else? Will she able to do everything like everyone else will?”
When it comes to her daughter, Kim has learned this: “Whatever she starts, she wants to finish.”
“There were times they said she may never be able to walk, but she has proven them wrong,” Kim said. “I’ve never told her she can’t do something; we just modify things for her.”
When she was 10, Meikeila had surgery that severed roots in her spine -- known as a rhizotomy -- and had to learn how to walk all over again.
“She just did it,” Kim said. “She just didn’t quit.”
Now, in her senior year at United Township High School, she walks the hallways every day. She can’t stand using her wheelchair when she doesn’t have to. She likes reading, studying history, making friends with “underdogs,” and hopping on the treadmill for a mile or two after school each day. She has competed in beauty pageants for several years and won a big one -- the National Miss You Can Do it pageant, held at the River Center -- in July.
After high school, Meikeila plans to enroll at Black Hawk College. She wants to be a lawyer.
“Some people have been like, ‘She can’t do that,’” Meikeila said. “I’ve shocked several people by doing it and proving to them that even though I am different from other people, I can still do what they can do.”
There’s a reason she walks, sometimes runs, and shares her story. She wants people to look at what she’s capable of, and not just her disability.
“I’m stubborn and determined to make something of myself,” Meikeila said, “to not be the stereotype that almost everyone kind of perceives me to be at first. I want to break the mold.”
Some students her age don't talk to her because she's different. Others know, Kim said, “That’s just how Meikeila is.”
There have been times, after a harder-than-usual day, where Meikeila looks at her mom and asks, “Why can’t I be like everyone else?”
“I tell her," Kim said, "that God made you the way you are."
Meikeila says that encouragement keeps her going.
“My mom probably always will be one of my biggest role models,” she said. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be doing half of the stuff I’m doing now because I wouldn’t have the confidence to do it."
A moment to remember
A framed photo of last year’s finish line moment with Kim and Meikeila sits on Moreno’s desk inside his East Moline office space.
The Kincaids have completed the four other races he organized this year, including the Resolution Run, Ganzo’s Cinco de Mayo 5k, Firecracker Run and Freedom Run, and they plan to return for the Quad-Cities Marathon’s 5k on Sunday to run as part of a team with the Children's Therapy Center of the Quad-Cities, where Meikeila went for therapy sessions for more than 12 years.
“To me, it’s emotional,” Moreno said. "When a young lady like her crosses your path, they do something to you. They inspire you. As a race director, people like that keep me going.”
At the marathon, Moreno has a tradition of high-fiving everyone -- typically 6,000 runners -- who crosses the finish line.
Last year, when he saw Kim and Meikeila, he offered more than that.
“You could tell it was a struggle for her,” Moreno said. “There was a grimace on her face. But she was also happy, she was smiling.”
Talking about crossing the line holding Meikeila’s hand, Moreno “gets goosebumps again.”
“A moment like that with her means so much,” he said. “It’s what this is all about. It makes the work worthwhile.”
“She needs to know that just by being out there, she’s motivating people.”
That includes her mother.
“I always say that I have no room to be a downer or upset because I have those two kids and they wake up every morning in a good mood,” Kim said. “I wish there was a word for beyond proud.”
For Meikeila, walking alongside her mom is one of her favorite things to do.
“It’s very inspiring to do it with my mom,” she said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”