As an athlete, I have always loved to run different races. With my time, at the Achilles Track Club I had always done races such as track events such as 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 800 m, and one-mile races. I also had accomplished many road races over the years such as one-mile fun runs, 3K’s, and 5K’s. All of these races were within my reach provided that I trained properly before hand.
In 2002, I remember asking myself if I could complete an 8k race. This was definitely going to be an incredible challenge for me. The longest race I had ever run was a 5K. This was equivalent to a little over than 3 miles. An 8K race was the equivalent of a little over 5 miles. The difference of 2 miles for most may not be that big of an idea. For me having cerebral palsy, the difference was tremendously huge.
I remember talking to my longtime coach and friend, Alan Roth, about attempting this race. Alan was incredibly encouraging and helped me find race guides to help me on my incredible adventure. The race that I chose was called the Rockville Rotary 8K. I had participated previously in their fun runs and had always enjoyed the atmosphere. This race was always held in the evenings in July. As expected, the weather was normally pretty hot. For some reason, I always enjoyed running in warm weather.
I remember training a little over a month before the race. I felt like I was ready, but with races you never know the outcome until you are there.
As the race began, I felt great! During the first couple of miles, there was no problems as far as fatigue or cramping. It was smooth sailing. I remember the crown cheering all of the runners on as they passed through the streets of Rockville. We were more than halfway home, and I barely had had a cup of water. This is how great I felt!
We had about less than 2 miles to go to reach the finish line. My feelings of greatness were certainly about the change. I remember my legs started to get heavy and my feet were starting to drag a little more than normal. This was the realization that I now was in a fight. My body had already been accustomed to completing a 5K race. All of a sudden the realization hit me, “This is an 8K race”!. With a little under 3K to go, every step started to feel very difficult. All of those negative thoughts that into your mind prior to raise begin to resurface. Thought such as, “why am I doing this?”, “are you sure you can complete this?”, “what was I thinking?”. I remember my race guides asking me to take a water break and stretch. I remember even taking a walk for short time just to let my legs will cover for the home stretch.
The most incredible part about getting close to the finish line was that I could not feel my feet. They had completely gone numb. This is when I had known that I had pushed the limits of my body. In the next couple minutes, something great was going to happen or something very disappointing.
With the excruciating pain in my feet continuing, there was something that I was hoping to see. In the distance, I saw the finish line and the bright lights and balloons that were there. This immediately gave me inspiration to continue despite my pain and now I had the ability to sprint for short bursts before the reality of pain caused me to slow back down. This would go back and forth over the next couple minutes as we got closer to finish. I remember every first step that got me closer was a mixture of joy and pain. The joy coming from the fact that every step to me closer to finishing the race. The pain coming from every step which sends incredible discomfort to my feet which transferred up for to my legs and overall to my entire body.
This was now coming down to a battle of wills. Mentally, I had to be strong in order to cross the finish line. I was becoming more and more resolute that I was going to complete this race. The crowd was getting louder and louder as we approached the finish. I remember seeing Alan and my family smiling and cheering as we approached.
This was the momentum that I needed to cross the finish. Something in my mind ordered me to sprint regardless of the pain or fatigue that I was feeling. This resulted in me sprinting the next hundred meters or so to cross the finish. It was done! The race was now over! My goal have been set!
This race was something I will never forget. I was happy that I chose to take on this challenge despite the pain and agony that it presented. I remember my race guides embracing me with congratulations. These moments were worth all the pain and agony. I later attempted to repeat my goal of running an 8K race again. This time I was unsuccessful. Although nothing can take away from the accomplishment of my race in 2002. This will be something that I will always cherish and hold dear in my memory.
To all of those who have a goal or dream, please use this example to realize that all things are possible with the right mindset and team. Who would have ever thought that someone who barely could walk would be able to complete an 8K race.
NEVER GIVE UP!