"...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."
These words were said to me by my orthopedic surgeon in early November, 1975. I had been involved in a head-on collision that nearly ended my life just 3 months earlier. I would spend the next 9 months in a series of casts and then begin months or years of physical therapy. As bad as it sounds here, I consider the whole incident one of the greatest blessings of my life.
I did what the therapists said and my doctor was right. I still walk with a limp but it's not bad. Most people can see it, but some don't. The mention about running really ate at me. After that, I would see someone out for a run, and for the first time in my life, I was jealous of them. Before the accident, I had no ambition to run. If you wanted to see me run, I think your best chance was to maybe catch me trying to catch an ice cream truck that went past my house. Not only was I not a runner, I had no regard for my physical condition.
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.
For the first time, I was beginning to think I had a chance to become "a runner". I stayed at it and even entered a couple of small races. I was really slow, but before too long, I finished my first 5K. I entered and finished a few more small races. I had made it. I had become a runner. I no longer felt that jealousy when I saw people out for a run.Then one day in early 1996, I returned to my desk after lunch and found a flyer that had been put there by a co-worker and friend. It was a flyer announcing that Indy was going to have their first full marathon that October. It was called the Indianapolis Marathon and it would take place in the Fort Benjamin Harrison area. It was 26.2 Miles! That would be crazy.
Then I read the note: "Lynn, our church is sponsoring a training group to run this marathon and we want you to join us." -- Paul.
If someone asks me on my death bed, what I would call the most defining moment in my life, that moment just might be it. My excitement about running was already at an all-time high, and as you would guess, the curse that my doctor put on me years before immediately came to mind. I would do it!
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.
I could call the finish of that race as a great mark of full recovery from the accident that almost took my life, but instead, I consider that day as the birth of a new life for me. I'll never be the same. I learned more about myself and about life in general than I could have ever learned otherwise.
Even marathon runners who didn't have the challenges that I have had to learn all of those same things. You learn about your will to succeed, your ability to manage pain, nutrition, rest, and most of all, how to recover from the minor injuries and setbacks you encounter.
I've run many other races since then including over 40 half marathons. Nothing has ever compared to that day.
This year, the Indianapolis Half Marathon and 5K at Fort Ben is celebrating its 21st anniversary.
I'm training now and will run in this year's race. It's a beautiful area, and although the course has changed, I'll somehow feel like I'm going back home.