Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Countdown to Bermuda: My Race - My Pace

I recently wrote a blog post about "For someone who was supposed to be in a wheelchair, you run pretty fast!"

As a back of the pack runner who knows how it feels to finish last (although last year's field in Bermuda had finishers coming in at close to 5 hours for the half), it's vital for me to remember that it's my pace and my race.

I had a dream last night that I finished the Bermuda Half Marathon but then realized I wasn't wearing my bib and I hadn't received my medal yet I knew in my heart that I had gone the distance. Part of me was disappointed I wouldn't have bling to show off to everyone when I got home but another part of me was just so proud of me for having gone the distance and that I carry that with me in my heart and soul.

After I finished our 12.5 miler which we figured out was probably closer to 13 because of Nike+, I felt as though I had already won my race. I set out to train myself mind, body and soul for a half marathon and I accomplished that goal.

I am so deeply grateful to my running village who send me so much love, support and encouragement and remind me that Sunday is my victory race.

I share that victory race with my village, with my amazing life and running partner Tom who has been with me on every step of this amazing journey, and my dear friend, healer and chiropractor Dr. Ryan. When the PT's and MD's and Aquatics Therapy instructors and even the previous massage therapist I was working with were shrugging and prognosticating what I should and should not do given the appearances of the MRI and my history of paralytic polio, Dr. Ryan told me to set goals not limits and treated me like royalty to get me back on the roads.

As so often happens, the Divine wants me to be clear about how I run my race on Sunday. One of my friends from the Merrimack Valley Striders Club posted this article this morning on Facebook. "Why the 5+ hour marathoner and the 14+ hour Ironman are my heroes."

I’m a pretty fast guy for a non-elite runner. I can still break a 4:30 mile, a 16-minute 5K and a 33-minute 10K at the age of 45. My PR in the marathon is 2:27:17 and have run in the 2:30s three different times as well throughout my life. I tell you this not to brag, but to say if I weren’t this fast I don’t know if I would be such a serious runner. I am blessed to be able to run at a pretty good gait and enjoy running at top speeds. Heck, if I were fast enough to be a sprinter, I would have probably been one, but that was not to be.

So while over the years, people have been “amazed” by how fast I can run this distance or that, I honestly think to myself that I’m just lucky to have good running-DNA and a pretty good work ethic. What I’m really amazed at are the people who work their asses off to break a 6-hour marathon or 15-hours in an Ironman – these are my endurance heroes!
It’s All Relative

For years I’ve told the countless people I’ve coached for marathon events, “It’s all relative”. When I say that, I’m speaking about the work effort that goes into running a sub-3 hour, sub-4 hour, sub-5 hour or sub-6 hour marathon. Just because I can run a sub-2:30 marathon doesn’t mean I work any harder than the individual who runs the sub-4 hour marathon, it just means I’m faster.

And if I had to be on the roads for 5+ hours (in a marathon) or 14+ hours (in an Ironman) I am pretty certain I would not be so inclined to enter one. The mental fortitude and physical demands you must undertake for multi-hour runs, rides and swims is truly amazing – inspiring, I would even argue. I honestly get a bit edgy on a run longer than 90-minutes. So, if you told me that I needed to go on a 20-mile run or 80-mile bike ride and it was going to take me 4-6 hours, I would probably say nope, that’s just waaaaay too long! But many of you out there are these people, and honestly, I don’t know how you have the will or the drive to be on your feet or in the seat for that sort of a duration – now that’s some real grit and determination!
Be Proud of Yourself

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to cross that finish line. Those of you who take 5+ hours to run a marathon or 14+ hours to complete an Ironman, you train like the rest of us train. You have doubts if you’ll finish, just like the rest of us. You are not sure if you can handle this enormous challenge you’ve placed before yourself, just like the rest of us. But on top of all this, you know that there will be no fanfare for you. There will be no write-up in the local paper about your courage. There will be no top-3 age-group finish, most likely. You are on your feet and the roads for more hours than the rest of us and yet you still want to continue. You know you’ll be towards the end of the pack, and yet you wish to go on. You are, my endurance brothers and sisters, no less of an athlete than the 2:07 marathoner or the 8:10 Ironman finisher. You are inspiring. You are the spark that let’s others know, that it can be done if you believe in yourself and have the will to pursue your dreams and goal. I thank you for this. You are all truly my endurance heroes.

Happy Racing!

So I toss all those memories of teasing, taunting, trying to catch up and feeling less than because of all that I endured and stand tall, walking with attitude, running with pride because after all whether in life or in a race it should always be my race - my pace.

This is a poem I wrote that is included at the end of my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing Hope and Possibility," (chronicling the first 7 years of my healing odyssey) and "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life" that are available on Amazon. What is so stunning to me is that I wrote this poem in February of 2008!

On May 25, 2007, I left my career at the VA and didn’t look back. I was discharged from outpatient rehab and in October of 2007, I decided to hire a personal trainer to see if I could get a little stronger. Six months after meeting my initial goals of getting off of a low toilet seat and diversifying the program that Spaulding Rehab had given me, my trainer asked me for my next goals. “I want to dance. I want to feel free in my body. I want to take a walk outside…” She gathered up her belongings, had her hand on the door knob and I said, “Wait … I have one more goal … I want to run the 2009 Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab as a charity runner.” She was totally non-plussed, sent me off to buy my first pair of running shoes and I wrote these poems on the road to the Boston Marathon.

Marathon Metamorphosis

Pounding pavement, feeling strength the journey now begun
training for the race of my life a 26.2 mile run.
Feeling God in every step in every beat of my heart
I undertake this challenge as a new chapter of my life I start.

I ran around in circles carrying baggage by the ton,
destination was survival hardened shell let in no one.
Fear and worry doubts prevailed, adrenaline in my veins
a headless horseman running wild no one to take the reins.

Stopping in my tracks I froze no longer could I move -
clawing, fighting had to cease there was nothing more to prove.
God's grace touched like a magic wand, a softness and a glow
emerging from a troubled past my blood began to flow.

Loving teachers lit the way their love a healing balm -
focusing on who I am now brings a sense of calm.
Stretching every muscle feeling God in every cell
wholeness now a blessing out of prison - no more hell.

The race is still a year away each day my dream I see
mind, body, spirit tuning turning toward the Voice of Thee.
Flexing what had once been stiff to brace against the pain
old habits die and I'm reborn to write a new refrain.
And when the starting gun goes off poised with strength and grace
the thunder of the running feet will help me set my pace.
But the starting line's the finish my race already won
achieving the impossible preparing for this run.

The healing power of self-love and faith to spark the flame
transformed me from a victim once filled with so much shame.
Unearth my buried treasures my inheritance I find
connected to my Loving God in my heart and mind.

And when I cross the finish line the greatest cheer of all
has been this magnificent journey of answering God's call.

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