Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

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.


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.


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.


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.


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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