I sat alone in the back seat of the car while the road crew was inside the store getting supplies for the day ahead. I took out my phone and found several notifications on GroupMe app. from my MS Run the US teammates. I was overcome with emotion as I read each persons encouraging message to me. Several told me that they would be running miles with me when they ran that day. I believe that moment in time changed everything for me.
I started the day off with a fast walk with some easy jogging mixed in. My right foot was still not doing well but I was determined to make this day better than the last. I was slowly making progress. I took a small break from the road while Haley and Malcom knocked out some miles for me that morning as well.
After my break from running I took off on the road again this time and something was different. I made it a quarter of a mile without having to walk. This road I was on had tons of landmarks along the way. I started focusing on each sign, telephone pole, or creek crossing along the way. I would make it to one and then keep going with a goal of making it to the next one. I repeated this over and over until I had made it a mile without having to walk. I couldn’t remember the last time I had run over a mile without stopping. I continued on until I found myself on a bridge overlooking the water. I stopped not because I needed to but because I wanted to take some pictures. I promised my good friend Tanis I would take some pictures from my segment and this one was definitely going to be one for her!
I ran along across the bridge to the road crew, grabbed a snack and took off again. What seemed to be a flat route through town quickly changed when the road took me into the woods. What started as a paved road through the woods gradually turned into an insane .92 of a mile climb up a very steep hill. The road curved to the left and right making me believe that the top was just around the corner but it wasn’t. Just more elevation. I found myself getting irritated at the hill for some reason. Maybe I was mad because I had just learned to run again and the hill was forcing me to walk. I don’t know.
About half way up the hill I stepped off the road for a restroom break and I questioned myself as to why I was irritated with this hill so much. This hill was here long before I was. It did nothing to me. I was the one using this path to get across the US. It was then that I remembered my mission. I had gotten so lost in my injuries that I had forgotten why I was here. I’m here because I want to stop MS. I am here because I love running. I am getting to spend an entire week outdoors exploring places I have never been. My teammates helped me start to remember when they sent me messages that morning.
I finished my climb to the top of that hill and it opened up to the highway. A little further down I found the road crew. I was fired up and ready to go! It was one of those moments where you’re driving along in your truck, your favorite song comes on, you drop the windows, and punch the accelerator! I grabbed some food and I took off running. I’m not sure what Malcom and Haley were thinking of me but I am certain they noticed a change in me.
Not long down the road I saw a sign telling me that there was a scenic overlook up ahead. I was moving at a decent pace and thought for a second that maybe I should not stop and check it out. Ultimately the real question was why would I not stop? When will I have the opportunity to check this out again?
I stopped took some pictures and read the words on a plaque at the overlook. “You haven’t lived until you’ve looked down on a hawk.” In memory of Richard P. Thomson. Richard Thomson died in a hang gliding accident at that very spot. I can only imagine the adrenaline rush one would get from going over that overlook in a hang glider. I wouldn’t know his story if I had not accepted this 167 mile challenge and Im willing to bet you didn’t either until you read it here.
The sun had was shining bright and I could feel its warmth on my face and arms as I pressed on through the Pennsylvania countryside. I was also quite aware of the fact that I was smiling again even through the pain. I arrived into a small town and found a sidewalk to run on. I passed a house that had at least 15 dogs in the back yard and they all went crazy cheering me on. On the other side of the house there was a man who I am assumed was the homeowner working on the yard. We greeted each other and he just smiled as the dogs followed me along to the end of the fence. I made one more crew stop to refuel and for the final push of the day.
I arrived at the my stopping place for the day a little bit before the road crew did. They had picked up some food so that we could eat dinner before heading on to our new campground for the night. I sat down underneath the shade of a tree on the side of the road and reflected over the day. I still could not believe how everything changed for me after climbing that one mile hill, but I was thankful for it. I had pushed my body to the point I wondered if I would ever be able to run again. I could barely move my right foot up or down but somehow I was running again. The human body is so amazing though. I really don’t know how to explain how everything changed for me that day, but I do know that it started with an amazing group of teammates supporting me from all over the US! By the time the road crew pulled up next to me on the side of the road I knew deep down inside that I would be able to complete all of the miles on the final day of segment 17.