Simply remembering the moment sends chills down my spine…
I was standing shoulder to shoulder on the inner roadway of New York City’s Central Park. It was Marathon Sunday. A crisp November day as runners in varying states of glory and agony entered the final mile of the race. The crowd was thick, electric, cheering on everyone who passed. I was instantly a part of everyone’s families. Go mom, go dad, go gramma!
But, there was one who caught my eye…and made me cry.
He was in his mid thirties, shaking, exhausted and drenched with sweat that ran down the one leg that supported his body. Crutches on either side kept him upright as his teammate from the Achilles Club jogged slowly 10 feet back pushing a wheelchair that would serve as a back-up.
It was clear, though, by the 25 miles that lay behind them and the steely, anguished look on this one-legged runner’s face…the wheelchair was simply not an option. He’d come this far standing up, damned if he was going sit down for the final mile.
I burst into tears and would’ve screamed louder, but for that fact that, at that moment, I couldn’t get a sound out.
Suddenly, the variety of things I’d bemoaned earlier that day seemed ridiculously small.
“Who the hell was I,” I wondered, “to be complaining about so many things that, in light of what I was witnessing, now seemed so astonishing small?”
Moments like this wake us up…
They deliver us out of the realm of what’s wrong and into the realm of what’s right. They remind us that, to the extent that we are in control of the circumstances of our lives, there is little that is insurmountable. And, to the extent that fate serves up challenges and changes that are not within our control, it’s how we rise to those challenges that, in large part, defines our experience of them.
Does that mean it’s always easy? No.
But doable? With rare exception…yes.
The lesson taught to me by the one-legged runner stretches beyond the marathon, though.
In fact, it seems to be incredibly relevant today, where so many are enduring shake-ups, unexpected changes in circumstance and wondering what’s coming next. Getting through these times isn’t necessarily easy.
For many, like our one-legged runner, it will take a tremendous amount of work, will, creativity, and adaptation.
But, if there’s a pundit to be followed through this journey, in my mind, it’s not the “sky is falling” TV crowd, but rather, the one-legged marathoner who, not by words but by example, proves the simple proposition that…
It is possible to not only survive, but thrive, after an extreme change in circumstance.
Envision it. Train for it. Work for it. Will it. Create it.
So, what do you think?
Have you ever experienced something like this, either as a participant or observer?
What’d I miss? What would you like to add?
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