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Shot Of The Day

Miles for Mikey

Going the Distance for Something Bigger than Me

In that season of my life, the things that I once dreaded, avoided and hated the most were the things I craved. Like exercise. I always had to force myself to exercise. Groaned when it was time. Performed every form of mental gymnastics to convince myself that it was OK to skip today. But in this strange new world, nothing appealed to me more. Nothing. And not just any exercise. The type that I found the most taxing, the least desirable and the most torturous — running — was on my brain 24/7. In my hospital bed at 18 years old recovering from a crainiotomy, I would have given just about anything to run a marathon. In my clinically white room with tubes coming out of my mostly hairless skull, I would fantasize about it. I would dream it. I would plan it and struggle through it and wake up breathless after crossing the finish line. But I couldn’t actually do it because I was out of the race for a while. Being forced out of any part of the “normal” function of life leaves a profound impression on one’s gratitude. Laying awake at night, I thought about all the cross country practices in high school where I walked when nobody was looking, when I skipped a meet or practice because I just didn’t feel like it that day or gave half of my heart to a competition. What was I thinking? How could I be so ungrateful for my ability to do something as simple as run or walk or move? I swore when I recovered that I would run a marathon one day. I’m 44 now. It’s been 26 years — ironically the number of miles in a marathon — and have I run one? Nope. My gratitude meter did go way up after surgery and I’ve savored life in ways I never would have if I hadn’t had some things involuntarily taken from me for a season in my life. But as one brain surgery survivor told me at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, “You’ll forget. This feeling of gratitude. It will fade in time. You’ll see. It’s human nature.” I thought, “no way buddy!” But you know what? He was right. And the little boy running on the beach in the picture above showed me so. His name is Michael. I’ve known his family since before he was born and did this photo of him running in 2004. He is now facing life with no hands and no feet. He’s 9. I can’t stop thinking about him and my feet and hands and how much I take them for granted. I can’t stop thinking about gratitude and why we are so arrogant to ask questions like “why don’t I have _____” and “why can’t I _____” and “when will I get ____” instead of “why do I have so much?” And “why am I so blessed to have my hands and feet and the ability to run and breathe and live?” I don’t know how long I’ll have my hands and feet, but I don’t want to waste them. I want to run for something much bigger than myself and my own pathetic comfort. To learn more about how you can do Miles for Mikey visit www.michaelstolzenbergtrust.org.

Posted: 18 November 2008