Well, I did it with help with tons of help. My wife, Laurie, came out to Boston in order to be with me. All my family and kids were super supportive. My older sister and husband came of from Virginia to cheer me on. Flip Herndon, my nephew, was my guide. Flip set a good pace and he was instrumental in digging deep on a challenging weather day. Social media friends came out, too. I was surprised to hear them yelling my name out on the course. That was a welcome source of encouragement. All the positive feedback was useful, too. Thank you to all my supporters. I want to express my appreciation to my sponsors as well. I say thank you: TurboMed Orthodics, Rudy Project, and XX2i. And, of course, I did it for stroke survivors to help them gain a sense of hope!
Walter, my wife and mine friend, gave us ride from Attleboro to Hopkington, where buses responsible to get us to the start line were. It was 38°, light rain, and light wind. There was a light coating of snow in areas. We had plenty of time. Unfortunately, the bus driver got lost. The driver that the Boston Marathon organizer arranged! What was supposed to take 10 minutes turned into 40+ minutes, plus he let us off 1 mile from the start line. I was so glad Walter gave me a poncho, hat, and gloves. Originally, I opted against them but I decided to put them on.
Flip and I started jogging towards a start line where I disposed of the poncho. Heading in the opposite direction were the mobility impaired runners, already out the the course. We missed the start! The “warm up” was welcomed, although the circumstances were not. I was really looking forward to starting with the other mobility impaired runner’s.
We got to a starting line and gratefully the starting official decided to let us start late, about 10-15 minutes after our group had left. For a while, the crowds were cheering for us alone. There was no one around!
Soon, the light rain turned into downpour and 25 mph headwind started in earnest. By the time I was a quarter way done, I was thoroughly soaked and shivering despite wearing the hat and gloves. My hands and feet were numb. By the time I was half way my pace had fallen drastically and my right calf and groin muscle were cramping. Flip was a voice of reason, keeping me encouraged and keeping me away from barriers which would have tripped me.
The last half was a blur. I don’t remember much of the course. I checked out mentally for the most part. My right calf and groin muscle, and the shivering were begging, “no!”, screaming for to me to stop. But Flip kept me running. And stroke survivors kept me focused. Over and over the saying “Stroke Survivors CAN” kept going through my mind. I was running the race for stroke survivors first and foremost.
Crossing the finish line, I was toast. No celebratory gestures, nothing. I gave it my all. I was spent. I scored a personal best time in adverse weather conditions. Now I wanted to get the the medical tent for symptoms consistent with hypothermia and cramps. But on my way I did want to make sure I was going get to a medal. Stroke Survivors CAN, but I wanted the medal to commemorate me having done the Boston Marathon in such brutal weather conditions. The volunteer taking care of me quickly returned with my medal.
What I learned from this:
I couldn’t do it alone. Having survived a stroke, you would think that was a given. Apparently, I needed a reminder. I couldn’t do this race without lots of help. From Flip, my guide, family and friends, all the encouraging words on social media, and stroke survivors…I am grateful and salute you!!
I can keep on running even when my body yells “stop”. Through Flip, I learned a new level of perservance and mind over matter. I can keep on running with cramps and cold.
Human spirit is strong. There were other mobility challenged runners out there who were told to give up running years ago. But they were out the under the same miserable conditions. Amputees, blind, height challenged, all sorts of medical conditions… my respect to them all and the guides that supported them!
Do not let a diagnosis put you into a box. Challenge it, stretch it. You never know how far you’re going to go. This goes for athletics, and also daily rehabilitation. We stroke survivors are resilient and we have a lot to offer!
Stroke Survivors CAN!