“To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.” ― Jim Valvano
We loaded into the car and headed out to the final starting point of my segment. I reflected over all of the emotions from the day before. I thought about how starting at my lowest point and how messages from my team mates changed the entire day. I knew then I would make all of my miles without help on my final day, but as we drove further on thoughts of doubt made their way into my brain. I did my best to shut them out while I silently wondered if the road crew was thinking they would need to help me with my miles today. Those voices of doubt were silenced as I began running into one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen. I wanted nothing more than to share it with everyone so I stopped and took a picture. I knew that the picture would not be the same as being here in the moment. Just like retelling of each days out running the roads its not the same as being out here. One of my favorite books is “North” by Scott Jurek which is his account of his FKT of the Appalachian Trail. There are pictures in his book and he does an amazing job of describing each day, but I am certain it is not the same as being out there. What his book did for me was leave an open space for my imagination to fill in the gaps of what that experience was like. I hope that my storytelling of segment 17 has left room for your own mind to create its own version of what it was like. I have many reasons that I took this adventure and one of those reasons was to honor those who have inspired me to do big things.
I found myself walking a little more today but this time it wasn’t from the pain in my right achilles and shin that was slowing me down. It had taken me five days to figure it out but I had learned how to run through the pain. Today was the last day of my 167 mile adventure. I was taking in every single minute left of this adventure like my skin soaking in the hot August Pennsylvania sun. I knew that the memories I was making would stay with me longer than the burn the sun was leaving on my skin.
The weather was cool most of the morning and there were times that I wished that I had put on a long sleeve shirt. The landscape seemed like it changed more on day 6 than any of the previous days which kept my mind off of being cold. I can only remember the names of two roads that I ran on my entire segment both of which were on my final day. The first one was Old Town Road which put that song on my brain. Definitely not my favorite song in the world but I have heard it enough that I knew it. I do not have to have headphones when I run because I hours worth of songs stored in my iBrain account. Even the ones that I don’t particularly care for.
With each step I took I knew that my adventure drew closer to an end. I was not to the point of counting down miles yet, but I knew how many more times I would see the road crew before I got to the finish. I was closing in on my second to last stop when I heard a gun go off. I felt nothing and I heard nothing hit in my vicinity and then it went off again with the same result. Im not sure why someone shooting in the country caught me by surprise on that Saturday afternoon because that is a common occurrence in Texas. I had been thinking about stopping for a restroom break and I was wearing an orange shirt but I felt like I should maybe get another mile down the road before I decided to stop.
I knew I was closing in on Brookville when a road sign told me that it was 5 miles away. I stopped and posted a picture of the sign on social media to let people know that I was getting close. Most of the day had already been emotional as I reflected over days one through five. I passed this sign and started thinking about how reading “Born to Run” set me on a path that took me from San Angelo, Texas to Brookville, Pennsylvania. I thought of the day I got my invite to join the team and how quickly I respond with my trademark “challenge accepted”!! The training runs in the rare Texas snow and the hot dry triple digit summer days were all part of the journey to get here. I thought of the DNF on a 60k trail run a month earlier and how it helped prepare me for the days that I needed help to finish my miles. The country side turned into a city and sidewalks appeared before me again. I shared the sidewalks with other people walking around in downtown Brookville. It seemed like forever since I ran and saw other people out and about. I realize the cars that passed me along the road had people in them but I only started to see them as just other objects I passes along the way. These humans that I passed probably assumed I was some guy out for a short run around town as I passed them by. I said “Hi” to everyone as though I was greeting guests walking through my produce department. I smiled to myself and wondered what they would think if they only knew where I had started my run that morning, or where I had started six mornings ago.
I mentioned earlier that I remembered the names of two roads from my segment. The second that I remember is water plant road. I remember this one because it was the final turn of my 167 mile journey. There are moments in my life that no matter how much time passes by when I play it back the emotions hit me just as hard as they did the first time. This was one of those moments. I had been running down Main Street looking for water plant road knowing that it would be my last road to run on. I was hoping that my turn was much further ahead of me but as I left the downtown area there it was. I remember zero pain and feeling as though I was running on clouds as I made my way down the quiet tree covered road to my finish line. I had tears streaming down my face as I ran. I was thankful for wearing shades so that the camera waiting at the end would not capture my tears. I was about a quarter of a mile from the finish line when I rolled my right ankle and I started laughing as I thought to myself how I had gone from Ohio to Pennsylvania only rolling it once. I thought of Jimmy Valvano’s ESPY’s speech and the 3 things that he said we should do every day. “If you laugh, think and cry that’s a heck of a day”. I was experiencing all three of those things at the exact same time. That was definitely one heck of a moment for me that I will never forget!
I emerged from the canopy of trees that surrounded me my last mile and I jumped up onto a sidewalk that took me the rest of the way to North Fork Redbank Creek where segment 17 ended. I can not imagine a more beautiful spot for my run to end. I passed underneath the archway and I stopped running.
I have seen“Forrest Gump” many times and started thinking of the moment when he just stopped running. I had been running for six days and now my body was used to it. It is an odd thing to experience. I don’t know how to explain it, but this was my Forrest Gump moment. It was just like the movie, I just stopped. I sat down on a bench next to the sidewalk and I took my shoes off. I walked into the cold creek water and sat down on some rocks. I continued my reflective state of mind as I watched the minnows swim around my feet in the water. I thought of the people that had inspired me to do big things. I hoped that I had honored them by stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to do something that I once never thought possible. I said I would never run a marathon. It was just starting to sink in on what I had accomplished the past 6 days.
If you have been following my story you have seen me at my best and worst. You have witnessed my insecurities, victories, and at the hopefully you smiled a time or two. I hope that in some way I have made it easier for others living with Multiple Sclerosis to share their own story. If you have been inspired by my story to get out of your own comfort zone and find out what your body is truly capable of then I know I have honored those who paved the broken the broken road for me. My journey is not over. I have only begun to experience what it means to truly live each day to its fullest.