I have been humbled by an absolutely unbelievable experience – I think one of the most meaningful in my life! I participated in, and completed, the New York Marathon 2005.
A few months ago, when I set myself the goal of taking part, I did it for an unusual reason. Since then, I have realised something quite profound: This wasn’t at any time a self thing, it is something I had to do to cement and entrench my own mindset and my attitude towards my mobility challenges.
Indeed, each one of us runs his or her own NY Marathon inside of our heads every day!
Let me explain:
With or without disability, our lives are short. It’s a brief time where everyone does things which include some goal setting. Sometimes an impediment or disability might be introduced into this map of life. It is quite easy to let this interfere, to let it get in the way; but don’t do that; you will find life is too short, even without the intervention!
Many people with disabilities tend to say: “I would love to do so-and-so and so-and-so, but now I can’t, because I am disable!”. One day – and preferably sooner rather than later - they must challenge that perception. They must say: “I AM going to do that! Now let me work out the “how” part.”
I thought I had learned that lesson years ago. In New York I learned it again – much more emphatically. Let me set the scene:
Before I left for the US, I had really not achieved my training and practicing goals. I had managed only six kilometres at one stretch - how the hell was I ever going to be able to cover the 42km of the NY course?
But I did! Most importantly it was a set of conditions which took me through it all:
The environment was incredible on the day! I can’t describe it to you. The countdown to the start was dramatic; the “off” and the race itself was just unbelievable. There was a special and massive buzz to everything. It was very stimulating.
I had the equipment I needed. The handcycle, the handpads, the crash helmet, the route guide;
I needed an adrenalin rush. It came in large, large dollops. And when I was about to give up, I needed a God to call on for inspiration to persist.
I had vital support from others. My fellow Achilles entrants were all around; this was a massively collective effort.
The spectator input was just stunning. One felt as if the Whole of New York Wanted YOU to Finish. Scores of thousands of people – crowd total on the day was three million! - were just willing us along. They gave you arm-power, hand-power, horse-power, wheel-power and mind-power which just rolled those wheels through Central Park and the streets of the Big Apple.
And so we finished!
And then I realised that what we had in NY was symbolic of what all of us need and must have every day: We all need goals; we all need equipment (wheelchairs and assistive devices of various kinds); we all need support; we all need adrenalin, and we all need a friendly, cheering crowd to will us along through our day.
Perhaps I’m saying to you – and to myself – we all need to find, challenge and complete our daily NY Marathons. That way our short lives will become more meaningful – and successful – whatever our circumstances.
Go for it, try something possible, that just seems so impossible. You will see how much resilience you actually have.