So my goal, 16 years in the making, became a reality at the 2016 CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. It was an absolutely perfect day! So many little details all came together to make it an unforgettable day. It was a special treasure to share this day with Mike Fitzgerald (December 2015 #BeMonumental story), who also completed his goal of running the 50 states that day. I had so much fun taking the race at a slower pace and just taking in the scenery, talking with my friends and family along the course, talking with fellow runners about their journeys, taking a bunch of pictures along the way, and just truly enjoying all 26.2 miles and the memories it made for me. Thank you Beyond Monumental for putting on a great race which helped create the perfect ending to this journey.
I work as a Firefighter/Paramedic in Schaumburg, IL and my wife and I befriended another couple of which, the husband was a Firefighter/Paramedic in the Department neighboring mine. Our relationship grew quite close and when they announced they were pregnant with twins, my wife became godmother to their son. Shortly after birth, his sister, Madison showed signs of Liver disease. She was diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a somewhat rare Liver disease. At 7 months old, it was determined she needed a Liver transplant.
by Nicole Sheetz
As I began my service at Joy's House, I decided that I wanted to get to know our Guests personally. To do this, you have to spend time with each of them. You have to ask them questions. Eat lunch with them. Play games. And you have to be patient and listen. Most guests are very willing to talk and once you find what makes them tick, it's pretty fun to carry on a conversation with them, or simply sit and craft together. One Guest, however, intimidated me. His name is Mr. Robert. He is a tall man (6'4") and he is living with Huntington's Disease. Now, if you are like me, you will have to Google this disease. What I found was that many describe the symptoms of Huntington's Disease as being like having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's and Alzheimer's – simultaneously. It slowly takes away your ability to control your muscles and your ability to talk. It's not a "kind" diagnosis and I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to understand Mr. Robert. You see, he can't control his bodily movements and he wiggles around a lot. His voice is soft and his speech is not clear. His gait, when he stands, is very unsteady and I am honestly shocked that he stays upright with his walker. But, one day, I decided that I'd sit by him and just listen.
by Lynn Kendall
"...If you do what they tell you in physical therapy, and work hard, you should be able to walk pretty well."
"I treated a girl with almost the same injury a few years ago and I saw her recently. When she walked by, I could barely detect a limp. You'll never run a Marathon, but you should be able to live a normal life."
It was about 7 years after the accident before I first tried to run. In my mind, there was probably nothing more pathetic looking than an out of shape man with a limp, trying to run around the block in a pair of cross trainers. Every now and then, I'd "go out for another run". I remember the first time I was able to run half a block. I was really excited and proud, but it really took a toll on my leg and even though I've never been a smoker, I was gasping for air like I just finished a pack.
As time went on, I learned to pad my shoe to accommodate for the length difference (the damage to my right leg left it ¾" shorter than the left) and if I padded it a certain way, I also found it could help accommodate for the flexibility that I had lost in my ankle.
I soon learned that training for a Marathon is really hard painful work. But I also learned that runners by and large are some of the nicest people on the planet. I couldn't have made it through the training without the support and guidance of this group of experienced marathoners that were willing to take me under their wing. I will be forever grateful. They taught me that a runner sees all other runners as friends and winners just by the fact that we are all out there on the road together.
by Brian Duffey
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
In 2013, weighing 210 pounds, and no longer wanting to put it off for "tomorrow" I made a promise to my daughter, but most importantly to myself, to run at least one marathon with her. So on May 4, 2013, I committed to the ride of my life. After watching my daughter complete her first 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, I went home and began my own journey, jogging 1 mile (at 13 minute pace).
Race day was like a "story untold". It started off as a cold and blustery morning and I was certain that most of our students, parents, and even staff would choose not to participate; but as the morning began to unfold I was proven wrong. We had approximately 97% of the runners and 100% of staff show. As I stood in my corral before the start of the marathon, I realized that this was the first time I was alone, not with the students and staff. All morning my thoughts were on my students and their goals and their safety. Qualifying for Boston was at best just a fleeting thought, but as the race unfolded like a house of cards, I realized that I was ahead of the required pace to qualify but still knew many things could go wrong. The desire of potentially qualifying began to erase all doubts, my pace was still strong, but more importantly my belief was stronger. Nearing the finish line the feeling of accomplishment started to engulf me. Knowing all the hard work and steps taken meant something and that my students were there waiting to talk about their moment being monumental as well as supporting me in my journey.
You love to run. What would you do if you suddenly lost that ability? It's human nature to wish for something more instead of celebrating what we already have.
On July 28, 2013, my life changed forever. I had an accident practicing acrobatic yoga, which resulted in a C6 incomplete spinal cord injury. Initially, I was paralyzed from the neck down and I was hospitalized for 1 month. I had to learn my new body and hope to regain some mobility. I always considered myself an athlete: a marathon runner, rock climber, mountain biker, and snow boarder. Not only did I lose my identity as an athlete, but I also thought I lost my career as an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist. In the past, running was one way to manage my stress. I felt completely lost and didn't know how to cope with the new life that I was suddenly forced to face. My role has completely flipped, as I became a patient to receive therapy instead of providing therapy.
With help from numerous outstanding health care providers, generous support from friends and co-workers, my stubbornness/determination and some luck, I regained the ability to walk. I also returned to climbing as an adaptive climber with help from the non-profit organization called Paradox Sports based in Boulder, CO. Through this experience, I realized that I am still the same person who loves physical activities and has the heart of an athlete despite my disability. I felt a tremendous accomplishment when I first walked 1 mile on my own which took me nearly 30 minutes. Over the next 2 years, I kept increasing my speed and duration of walking just like how I used to train for marathons.
by Mike Fitzgerald
Then one January morning in 2007, I awoke to notice the vision in my right eye was not normal. It was as if a dark curtain had been drawn over half of my field of vision in that eye. A visit to Dr. Zak, my optometrist, was followed quickly by emergency surgery to repair a badly detached retina. This was followed by six weeks of immobility in my Clarkston, Michigan, home - face down on a couch to allow the retina to heal. After another six weeks of restricted physical activity, I found myself able to see again but badly out of shape.
I also found myself with a renewed sense of life. Early in the recovery process, I was uncertain about the success of the surgery and my ability to see again. The retina in my left eye also showed signs of weakness and, while not detached, would recover additional surgery. During the weeks of recovery, I'd found peace with the notion of not being able to see again, yet promised myself if I could see again, I would find a way to live life more fully. Fortunately, my recovery and all future procedures were completely successful.
The day my physical restrictions had been lifted by my surgeon, I realized I needed to get back in shape. My wife, Kristen, and I had just purchased a treadmill, months earlier. I stepped onto the machine with the goal of completing a mile. It was tough, but I was determined to get through it. I was not a young man, but I was also not an old one. So I felt the need to be able to do a mile without it seeming like it was so tough. So day after day, I ran the treadmill until I felt like I could do a mile easily. And as I felt my body begin to get back in shape and saw the improvement in my pace, I started running farther. Soon I was doing 3 or 4 miles every day on the treadmill.
Now by this time, my friend and coworker Michelle had been training to run a half marathon. Her enthusiasm for her training was contagious and got me thinking that perhaps I could someday run a half marathon. With my daily mileage and pace increasing on the treadmill, I decided it was time to take this act outside and soon found myself running everywhere in every condition for months. In April 2008, I ran my first half marathon, the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville.
Weeks later during a local run, I met Sarah, who invited me to join the group with which she had been running. That group was training on Saturday mornings for the Detroit Marathon in October and I soon found myself joining them every week. The training and the camaraderie were addicting, and before long I was registered for the marathon! And when I crossed that finish line in 4 hours and 23 minutes, I felt a tremendous sense of joy and accomplishment. Less than 2 years earlier, I'd been faced with possible blindness and here I am now – a marathon finisher!
In 2009, many member of the same group of runners were training for the Chicago marathon that fall. By this time, we had named the group "Your Pace or Mine Running Club". I committed to do that marathon, and was bound and determined to be faster than the previous one. But just weeks before the race, I developed a knee injury which limited my running ability and restricted my training. I was still determined to finish the race, though, and was able to complete it, although in about an hour longer than I had in Detroit.
But what I learned is that the marathon does not have to be a race. It is an experience. I fully enjoyed experiencing the entire 26.2 miles of Chicago – whether I was able to run or not. It is with this spirit that I ran our next group marathon which was at Disney World in January of 2010. Then came Las Vegas in October of the same year. By the time I was training for my fifth marathon – back to Nashville in April 2011 – the trend of running each race in a different state had become apparent. For the Nashville race, Sarah had made a shirt for me to wear which proclaimed that I was "running in all 50 states". Uh-oh.
Many of these races have been shared with good friends, including many who have completed or are also pursuing a marathon in each state: Leah, Argenta, Hoa, Veronica, Matt, John, and especially Sue – with whom I've run 28 marathons. Over these years, my marathon trips have allowed me to go dogsledding in Alaska, assist Olympic Marathon hopefuls in Houston, and have the privilege and honor of meeting Bataan Death March survivors in New Mexico. I've been able to meet up with old friends. On three instances, I've run marathons on consecutive days. Kristen and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in Maui. She has been so supportive of me in my endeavor and I would like to take this opportunity to let her know how much I appreciate all the she has done for me!
In 2016, I plan to complete my 50 state journey. Three races earlier in the year will be followed by the Monumental Marathon in November – which will make Indiana my 50th marathon state. Appropriate, since I was born in Marion in 1964 and spent 17 years living in Kokomo. Friends who have previously run the Monumental have given it very high marks, so I am really excited to be able to finish this journey at this race. I'm looking forward to being there in November!