Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Staying in the race.

I love to run. Now that may come as a surprise to many of you, especially since I use a walker or wheelchair today, but it’s true.

I started running about 15 years ago, late by most runners standards, and I was not a typical runner. Truthfully, I was a jogger and some runners would say that jogging is not the same as running and they are right. So for arguments sake, let’s say that I love to jog.

When I started jogging I weighed about 234 pounds, a substantial amount for anybody 5’8” tall and especially a jogger. I started out, probably like a lot of people, on a treadmill, first with walking and then jogging a few steps, then walking and then jogging again and so on. Eventually I got to the point where I could jog constantly for 30 minutes. At that point I had become a real jogger.

How much jogging did I do? A fair amount. I would get up and jog a 5K almost every morning, at least 5 days a week. Do you know what happened? I lost weight? Do you know what I discovered? If I jogged, I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. What a great deal that was! I jogged, which I loved to do, and I got to eat whatever I wanted. I had found the formula for a happy life.

In time I did a number of 5K events, even a few 10K’s. But a 10K is only 6.5 miles and I needed to go further. Joggers and runners talk about being in the zone. The zone is both a mental and physical state that enables you to keep going. It transcends distance and exhaustion and you keep moving. It is difficult to explain or to expect someone to understand unless they have been in the zone, too. For you non-joggers, you are just going to have to trust me on this one.

Early one Saturday morning I set out to jog a greater distance. I did not know how far I would get, but I was going. I put my wife on alert that she may have to pick me up at some yet to be determined location and I was off. A few hours later she picked me up. I had jogged 13 miles, a half marathon. I did it and I still had a lot more in me. I was about to become a long distance jogger.

No matter how you do it, jogging, walking or running, it still takes a lot of time to go 20 miles. That distance, 20 miles, became my regular weekend run and it took me 4.5 to 5 hours to do. I would leave my house between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning, drive to Beverly Hills, park the car and head to the ocean…..and back. A pretty good run, or jog, by almost anyone’s standards.

I kept up my jogging for many months, though in time it was less and less. Why? Mostly because of work. It got to a point where I usually worked six days a week and 10 to 14 hour days were more common than uncommon. Eventually work had replaced jogging altogether.

A few years later, I started having problems with my legs; numbness, tingling and weakness. I called the doctor and in a matter of days was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since that time, the disease has progressed and my walking is very limited and requires a walker. Obviously my jogging days are over.

Today I use jogging as a metaphor. I get up every day and ‘put my sneakers on’, metaphorically speaking, that is. I still sign up, register and prepare for life’s big events and know that to be a participant, I have to go the distance to cross the finish line. We all do…..if we choose to.

About two years ago I was introduced to Mitchell, an extraordinary man who has survived incredible life events including a plane crash and motorcycle accident. Today he is confined to a wheelchair and says "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left." Clearly he is focused on what he can do. (
www.wmitchell.com )

I can’t jog anymore. But not being able to jog doesn’t keep me out of the race. I still participate. I do what I can and focus on what I can do. In many ways, I am busier and happier today than I have ever been. I write, travel, skydive, speak for the MS Society, socialize and much more.

I am still in the race.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Friday, January 1, 2010

It starts with the decision: "It can be done."

It starts with the decision: "It can be done."

It's New Year's Day. As is our custom, we woke up, turned on the TV and began watching the Rose Parade and then I saw them. The Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Band. WOW! A blind marching band. Who thought of that? The answer is "somebody did."

To me, it was both impressive and beautiful. Their story is better. The band existed, but did not start marching until the Ohio School for the Deaf revived its football program and requested a marching band. Fantastic on all accounts. (
Learn More)

The fact is that doing the impossible always starts with someone having the idea that it can be done.

This is true for any and every advancement that we as a species have ever made. Advancements in science, politics, sports, human rights, technology, the arts and so on have all resulted because someone decided it can be done.

When Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile barrier in 1954, our world was forever changed. He did it because he believed it could be done and the impossible was suddenly possible. Since that time, scores of people have run a four minute mile. Is a three minute mile possible? It won’t until someone decides it can be done. For me, I have learned to never say never.

I am relatively certain that I will never run a four minute mile (or five or six minute mile either!). But because there are people who can and do believe that things are possible, the impossible, the unthinkable, the unimaginable has become possible. Today we know that you can never prove a negative. That is, you can never prove that something will never happen. What we can do is continue to make advances, even if only at a fraction of a second at a time.

The treatments we have today for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, AIDS and MS were all non-existent just 30 years ago. Will we cure all of these diseases? We won’t unless we think it can be done.

It is a now 2010. It is a time for me to ask myself “What can I do?” I have a few ideas and if I do them, I promise to let you know about them. My hope for the new year is that you will ask yourself the same question.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.