The mile I never finished.
“I thought it was amazing that he wasn’t using a wheelchair yet, my goal was to keep him out of one until his next appointment.” That was my doctor’s goal and it had become mine as well. I would leave his office every month with more pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, TENS units, expensive custom braces, and whatever else he deemed useful to get me through another month. It had become my normal cycle.
Today I was logging a run on Strava and I noticed that I had a yearly total of 934 running miles. The miles I run are anything but fast. I don’t consider myself a runner but I do run. Some of my friends log more than twice that and 3 or 4 minutes per mile faster than me. What struck me a little weird is that I was totally neutral about the idea of running almost 1000 miles for the year. I wasn’t bummed about it and I wasn’t excited about it either. It just seemed uneventful and expected. I started getting excited about not being excited, if that makes any sense. I started reflecting on the idea that each and every mile I logged had a story to tell. If you follow me on social media you have probably heard me say that I lay down stamps of gratitude with my shoes. Every time my foot hits the ground it’s mini celebration of freedom for me. It’s a chance to do something that most cannot. It’s a sort of song I sing with my feet. Some miles are cold, some are fun, some are wet, some are hell, some are surreal, some are beautiful, some are ugly, some are easy, and some have me believing I am going to die before I finish. Some of the most meaningful miles are the ones that make me dig so far into myself that I get a glimpse of what I am made of. These miles make me feel like I have opened my soul to keep moving forward. These are the miles that make me feel like I can accomplish anything that life has to offer. I am pretty sure that if I live long enough I will log another 10,000 miles and each will have a story. But one particular mile will always be the most important mile in my life. It was the only mile I never finished…………
October 10, 2010, I had agreed to go for a walk on the bike trail. It was the first time in my adult life I had ever walked on purpose and without it being a necessity. The plan was to walk to the first crossroad, turn around, and walk back for a total of 1.5 miles. Off we went, Heather tried to talk with me to pass the time and my two kids were on the trail walking ahead of us. After almost an hour we had made it to the turnaround, it was a little less than three quarters of a mile. I couldn’t continue walking. I sat on a bench while Heather and the kids walked back and drove around the trail to the intersection. I had a half of an hour alone to think. My ankles and my knees were actually hot to the touch. My entire body felt shaken, and I was in terrible pain. I can remember questioning myself wondering why I didn’t just listen to the advice that so many professionals had given to me. “Keep your body quiet, don’t make any unnecessary movement, and never use your body for leverage.” I think about that first walk a lot. When we pass that bench now we are about 6 minutes into our run still fidgeting with adjustments, ear buds, and music. I can almost see that 400 pound man sitting on the bench watching me run by. I can’t help myself not to smile at that bench and say thank you when I pass and even after hundreds of times it still sends chills down my spine. A few steps later we cross the road where Heather picked me up, I wonder if she ever imagined where that walk would lead. I wonder why she didn’t give up on me and I wonder what I did to deserve such an amazing woman. Of all the thoughts that race through my mind there is one that has the power to knock me to the ground if I let it…….. What if I never took that walk?
“You’re big boned” “high cholesterol runs in our family” “You have the fat gene” “You are predisposed to other medical problems from the EDS” These were some of the things people would say to me and I loved to believe them. They gave me excuses and made me completely innocent of the situation I was in.
January 1 2012, I took on a challenge to eliminate meat, dairy and processed foods from my diet for 30 days. This was the complete opposite of how I had been eating. I honestly had no clue what I was getting into. I had never heard of kale much less purchased it. Five years later I’m filling out paperwork to have my medical records released to the public, the same records I would hide from my wife. My doctor hands out my cell number to his patients and has teased me about getting a DNA test to prove I’m the same person. My (genetically high) cholesterol is 117 and my big bones are in a size 34 pants. Sometimes when I’m eating a wonderful plant-based meal I can still see that 400 pound man sitting there across the table with pizza, wings, and blue cheese. It’s hard not to give him a little smile as I hold up my fork full of food as to salute him and say thanks for the 30 days. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I would have given up on day two when it got really hard. Sometimes I wonder how a 30 day challenge turned into 1500 days. But the one question that has the power to knock me to the ground if I let it is, what if I had never taken that challenge?
So who cares? If you follow my blog you know my story and probably already know everything you have just read. As the New Year approaches I’ve been reflecting on resolutions and challenges. I used to despise both with a passion. I still believe that genuine and authentic change does not come from a whim or a short-term challenge or resolve. True change doesn’t have a time limit or a static goal. True change comes from a decision to walk a never-ending trail to self-betterment with goals that are ever changing and expanding. The reality is that the vast majority of these the resolutions made on the 1st will fail and when the challenges are finished most people will go back to their old habits. So why bother? I mean, if it’s a temporary fix or a Band-Aid, why go through the discomfort only to end up back where you started? I think many times when we fall back into our old way we somehow reinforce negative behaviors and chip another piece of self-confidence away making the challenge actually detrimental. For me, a resolution and a challenge turned out to be a spur trail that lead to the never-ending trail. I’m definitely not an expert in psychology but I know my own mind (albeit weird) and I know what keeps moving me forward. In a word, possibility. A challenge not only showed me what was possible, it showed me that impossible was nothing more than a cloak to hide behind. It showed me that I had listened far too long to advice from people that saw me for 10 minutes a year. It showed me that the little voice in my head that rationalized everything was a bald faced liar. That one challenge showed me something I hadn’t seen since I was a child, it showed me that I could fly. If I could fly for 30 days, why not longer? If I could fly ¾ of a mile why not 26.2? What would ever possess me to go back to the couch or poor food choices now that I know I can fly?
So here is fatman’s challenge for your challenge…
Take every challenge you can. Test yourself. Show yourself what you are capable of. Show yourself that impossible is nothing more than a word. BUT… understand this, once you see the possibilities you are then accountable to yourself to hold that higher standard. When you refuse to do what you know you are capable of, you are selling yourself short. Go ahead and push yourself to the limit but as you close in on that 7 days, 30 days, or however long your goal, think ahead to day 8 and 31, put a plan in place so you never go back. The key is to focus on that goal with everything you have but realize that before it ends you had better have another one in place. That may sound trivial but that is exactly how a 400 pound crippled addict in braces got the honor to hit the register button on an Ironman 70.3 this weekend.
What if this is that one thing that kicks off a series of changes for you?
What if this is that one decision that opens your mind?
What if this is your year to question impossible?
What if you have been wrong all this time?
It’s kinda funny writing all these questions because there is one question I asked every morning 10 years ago and I continue to ask the same question every day. “Why me Lord, why me?”
I am beyond grateful for second chances (and 3rd and 4th …) and I really want people to understand that change is out there for anyone and it is only a decision away.
Have a happy new year and get chasing something!
Here is a short clip (it’s just over a minute long) of a project I am involved in. I would really appreciate it if you could give it a share so we can spread the word about the film.
Definitely join in the fun over at fatman’s Facebook Page
Also, I post a ton of food on Instagram, you don’t need the app, just click here
“Eat plants, move your body. All ya got to do is a little more than ya did yesterday😉 ”
Until next time,