Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Features · A Dose of Inspiration
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A Dose of Inspiration

Erin Crowell - February 27th, 2012  

How training with a quadriplegic has changed my philosophy on running

“Leave your worries, leave your fears.

Leave the doubt you’re holding dear. Leave them there, love, by the door. They’re no good anymore” – “Nothing for Granted” by Brendan James

“I’m so sore today,” I say, taking inventory of my body – from my tight quads to aching calves. “I don’t think I’ll be able to run tonight.”

“Wahhh!” Grant says mockingly, a crooked smile on his face.

I should have seen that coming. Grant likes to poke fun, but more so he likes taking any doubts or complaints you may have and throw them back at face value, because they are exactly that: nothing more than doubt and complaints.

We continue walking through the Grand Traverse Mall – me, decked out in a fanny pack that holds a bottle of water, towel and timer; Grant, leaning on his gait trainer that allows him to put one foot in front of the other.

For my friend Grant Forrester, a 24-yearold quadriplegic living in Traverse City, there is no such thing as can’t.

DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE

For years, I thought running a marathon was a far-flung goal, sitting somewhere on the horizon along with winning a Pulitzer. That is, until I met Grant, a hometown celebrity in his own right, but who earned a new respect from his community when he walked the Meijer Festival of Races 5K at the 2011 National Cherry Festival. It was the farthest he ever walked in his life, finishing the 3.1 miles in just under four hours.

I love sharing his story with those who haven’t heard it … about “Team Grant,” the group of a dozen family and friends who accompanied him during those four hours.

So when a friend propositioned me on helping him with an upcoming book project that would have me running my first marathon, my initial thought was excitement, which was immediately followed by doubt as I pictured the number – 26.2 miles – in my head. That’s twice the distance I ever ran, which was in 2009 and left me with the inability to bend my knees for two days.

However, it didn’t take long before the hesitation and uncertainty were replaced by inspiration and determination, and the image of Grant, dripping in sweat, as he crossed the finish line of his own race.

My race pick landed on the Bayshore Marathon, happening Memorial weekend in Traverse City. And although Grant’s upcoming race is about 1/8 the distance of mine, his training is just as tough. This is evident on our weekly laps at the mall when, by JCPenney, Grant’s shirt is soaked through and his witty comebacks are limited to punctuated huffs.

Grant started training for his July race back in October by standing for hours at a time – pretty impressive for a guy who’s spent the majority of his life in a wheelchair.

When he was 15 months old, Grant was riding with his father down an Indiana highway when another motorist struck their car, sending Grant – still attached to his car seat – across four lanes of traffic and a median.

Body, Mind, Spirit

His skull was cracked ear to ear and he spent nearly six weeks in a coma. At the time, Grant was just learning to walk; but the accident left him with spastic quadriplegia, which impedes voluntary muscle movement, making some tasks, such as showering, using the bathroom and dressing, impossible without assistance.

THE DEFINITION OF ‘RACE’

For many running “purists,” a race, whether it’s a 5k or marathon, should be run, not walked. Participation just isn’t enough.

A 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled “Running Debate” explores the growing trend of walkers who participate in marathons, finishing these races in several hours.

“On Sunday morning at 5 a.m., about 1,000 very slow people will gather at the Ferry Building in San Francisco,” the author notes about that year’s marathon. “They will have as much as seven hours to go 26.2 miles – an ambitious venture for most mortals but a glacial pace for marathoners.”

The article reflects polarized opinions on who should toe the start line.

I’m embarrassed to say I used to feel this way; yet, a part of me still does when, after weeks of preparation, my pace is grounded to a halt by a group of walkers at the start of a 5K race.

Then I remember there’s probably some poor guy with a 4:58 pace and 6% body fat who had to sidestep around me.

Like any fitness goal, a race is all about relativity.

STEPPING UP TO THE CHALLENGE

I keep this humbling thought in mind as I reflect on my own marathon goal: to finish without walking or stopping. While doing either would disqualify me from having completed a marathon in my own mind, simply having that as a goal would make some elite marathon veterans snort.

For many, it’s surviving. For some, it’s enduring. For others, it’s conquering. Whatever silly reasons we put our bodies through hell, there is a commonality in envisioning something hard and stepping up to the challenge, regardless of fitness level.

Simply having a fitness goal speaks volumes nowadays. Exercise is no longer a necessity for survival, but a lifestyle choice. It’s why friends and family pat me on the back when they hear about my marathon goal.

“Wow, that’s crazy!” one says. “I could never do that,” says another. For the most part, this makes me proud, yet a small part of me is bothered by these remarks of self-doubt. I imagine a part of Grant feels the same.

It’s taken me awhile to put these feelings into perspective. And being a writer, I needed to put them into words (perhaps best placed on a tacky self-motivational poster). My best conclusion regarding pushing one’s body – particularly in regards to my own goal – is this:

Running is instinct. It has been hardwired into human beings as a means of survival. When circumstance is taken out of play, society is to blame for our lack of moving. Convenience, technology, and a perpetual onslaught of unhealthy habits have removed our desire – and most importantly, a necessity – to release the flood of endorphins, trigger a muscle twitch and set the lungs ablaze.

Running a marathon isn’t doing something impossible; it’s simply undoing what we have done to ourselves.

By all definition, Grant is a “victim” of circumstance, yet he still manages to get up and walk. A concept so simple, yet absolutely remarkable in its own right.

During one of our walks, Grant tells me about the time he walked across the Kresge Auditorium stage at Interlochen to accept his high school diploma, a goal he set back in sixth grade. Grant’s foresight, his ability to visualize what is capable surprises me every week.

I consider my walks with Grant a part of my own training as he serves as a constant reminder of accountability, a voice I hear in the back of my mind when the couch gets too comfortable or my legs start feeling heavy on long mileage days. I didn’t train consistently for my half marathon – a choice I will not be making for the full.

If Grant can do it, why can t I? Like an athlete true to form, Grant accomplished one goal and didn’t hesitate to set another. Simply finishing was no longer enough. Grant wants to race, and while he’s not competing to beat others, it’s a race against time, boundaries and limitations.

THE ATHLETE WITHIN

As we near the end of his mile lap, I ask Grant how he feels.

“Alive,” he says. I couldn’t agree more. With each walk, Grant continues to chip away at his time. Sometimes it’s minutes, other times it’s seconds. Some days are slower than others.

When I look into Grant’s eyes, there’s a certain determination and stubbornness to them, something I’d like to believe exists in every athlete, from the first-time marathon runner and 5K walker to the sponsored Olympian.

If there is a goal you have in mind – wherever it falls on your “impossible” scale – if you reach down deep enough, you can find that person who won’t accept excuses; because as my friend Grant says, there’s no such thing as can’t.

To see a slideshow of Grant Forrester s 2011 Cherry Festival 5K race, visit http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=86vJkN-phFg. For the Northern Express story on Grant s race (published 7/18/11), search “Nothing for Granted + 5K + Northern Express Weekly.

 
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