It’s been a few weeks since I have been able to actually sit down and write. I have been crazy busy getting ready for this marathon and it has been 100 percent of my focus. I finished the marathon, learned a few lessons, and have a couple stories about it. I had every intention of writing about the marathon and maybe I will, but something that Bucky Gleason, a writer from the Buffalo News, said to me has been bouncing around in my head. We had been discussing the estimated time it would take me to run the 26.2 so he could interview me at the finish. I was clearly stressed by wanting to finish at what I thought would be a reasonable time. Then Bucky said something like this, “Your story is not about the finish line, it’s the fact that you made it to the starting line that’s amazing.” I had never thought of it this way. How did I get here? How did we go from considering a motorized scooter to even registering for a marathon? There’s no doubt that many factors were at play but here is a little note I jotted down about a week before the marathon as a blog post idea.
“I’ve been thinking about something for a couple weeks and it may be from everyone telling me that they can’t run because of how bad their knees are, or how they don’t have time, or any of the other 1000 excuses we all make. My plan never included running one mile much less an entire marathon, it just kinda happened. Maybe it’s because of one critical shift in thinking. Could one idea propel a fat crippled man to cross the finish-line of the Buffalo Marathon? If it did, can that same idea change anyone’s life in a big way? Maybe the only way to answer this is to get inside my head (scary) and dig in.”
If you follow my blog you probably already know that I have a genetic disease called EDS. I really don’t want to get into all the details but my knees were rendered useless by multiple doctors 20 years ago. In fact, my MRIs are still being studied at a local university. I have no ACLs and every ligament has been torn at one time or another in both knees. Doctors had suggested to remove both knee caps to relieve some of the pain and tracking issues with the patella. I blamed my knees for the majority of my mobility issues and with good reason. I spent many nights begging God to give me new knees. I can remember one time my wife was out mowing the lawn on a very hot day and I was perched in a recliner with my feet up icing down my knees that were so swollen I could hardly bend them. For a few seconds I was so enraged at what a waste of a husband I was that I imagined myself repeatedly stabbing my knees with a knife that was nearby. I busted down in tears and did my best to hobble out to help her. I had become a liability to my wife. And although she would never see it that way, I did. Not only had my knees become my biggest liability they had become my families’ liability as well.
I didn’t realize it at the time but there was something far bigger going on here than destroyed knees. The liability and excuses were spreading throughout my body like a cancer. Every single aspect of my life was worsening. My food choices, attitude, the way I treated people, my self-worth, wanting to escape with medication or other things, and lack of value for life were spiraling out of control. The liability caused from my knees had somehow become the liability of my entire being. The more I felt like a burden, the more I became one. Somehow in a few short years I went from being a partner to my wife and a leader to my family to a burden. A burden that held everyone back. Road trips, recreation, yard work, games, practices, house work, finances, emotions, intimacy, even attending church became throttled by my state of pain and mobility. Over time, before I could stop it, I had become a liability. My body was dictating choices for almost every aspect of our lives.
During the 2 or 3 weeks leading up to the marathon I became completely obsessed with protecting my legs and (once again) with good reason. I had run almost 600 miles in 18 weeks. I ran in the dark with a headlamp. I ran in the snow with spikes on my shoes for the ice. I ran in 1 degree temperatures. I ran in the winter, in Buffalo, so yeah, my legs became pretty special to me. One wrong move, one little tweak, one misplaced foot step and all my hard work would be wasted. One rolled ankle mowing the lawn, one wrong twist lifting something heavy and I may never have seen the starting line. Every minute of the day I was consciously in protection mode to protect what had become an invaluable asset……. my legs. Somehow I had gone from wanting to repeatedly plunge a knife into my knees to being ready and willing to crosscheck a 90 year old lady if she got too close to my knees. (sarcasm, don’t hate) I found myself actually congratulating my legs after a long grueling run. If I focused on it long enough I would actually break down from the emotions of exactly how far my legs had taken me. Here we are 2 weeks out from the marathon and just yesterday I was taking a nice slow run when I spotted a man lowering a scooter off from his van. My entire body was overcome with gratitude as I looked down and saw my shoes hitting the ground like a Clydesdale in a gallop (I’m still working on the gazelle thing) We are doing “it” legs, we’re doing it. And just like the liability of my knees spread to the rest of my body the opposite is also true. The more goals that I meet, the more PRs I crush, the stronger my legs get, the more of an asset they become. That asset is spreading thought out my entire being. I’m sure my wife would agree that our lives are dictated by the asset I have become. I’m also pretty sure she would tell you I’m hard to keep up with. When my feet hit the ground in the morning she no longer wonders what will be the major complaint of the day. Instead she says, ‘oh crap, he’s up, I wonder what we are going to do today?”
So what is the point of all this? As a liability I got sympathy and a terrible image of myself, as an asset I get to experience self-worth, self-worth because I have so many more tools that enable me to be of value to my family, friends, and people I don’t even know. I have always had the attitude that self-worth is this egotistically, narcissistic idea of oneself, an arrogance of sorts. The reality is that self-worth is the complete opposite. When you are of value to yourself you are able to offer others some of that value. You are able to withdraw from that value and pass it along. When you have no self-worth you have nothing in the bank and nothing to offer others. Could it be possible that the only difference between being a liability and an asset is a mere choice? So maybe the real question here is not if you’re an asset or liability, maybe the real question is how I can become a better asset to my family, friends and myself? This is not a matter of doing inconceivable things. All it takes is pushing yourself a little out of your normal behavior and doing something different. It doesn’t have to be mowing the lawn when you can’t physically do so. But maybe it can mean hobbling outside with a glass of water for whomever is mowing the lawn. Who knows, with enough trips outside with water you may find yourself in a slow jog behind the mower in a couple years. (yeah, that happened)
Could it be as simple as trying to be a better person? Is it really as easy to just “eat plants and move your body, all ya gotta do is a little more than ya did yesterday? Maybe, but there’s only one way to find out…….