One Step...On August 16, 2009 I took a step that changed my life.
Prior to that day, I was full blown, focused, driven and all about the clock with every workout and race that I did. Most of my waking hours revolved around pushing myself to the next PR (Personal Record). You see, I have been running since the 4th grade but I was not a very good runner. Ask anyone who ran in high school. If they were a good runner, they still remember their times. I have no idea what I ran. I just know that I hated the one mile time trial in gym class and that I was nowhere near the Top 7 runner on my high school cross country team so my finish times didn't count at meets. In 1998, I started working with a running coach and training group, Run Chicago. Greg Domantay found untapped talent in me that I didn't know existed. He also believed in me until I believed in me. In 1994, I ran my first marathon just under 4:30. Fast forward to 2006, 2007, 2008 and I ran a 3:15, 3:20 and a 3:16. Finally, something that I was good at! The summer of 2009, I was again chasing a PR. Last week, Facebook memories reminded me of that chase with an August 9, 2009 flashback of completing a training run that included 16 by one mile repeats!
When I saw that memory, I was proud of that girl's fight and grit but also grateful that now I put more weight and energy in to the fact that I CAN run, that I CAN race, that I CAN see the world more intimately through running it, that I CAN transform a shitty day by going for a run, that I CAN befriend strangers every day with runners speak. You see, now when I run it's more about the journey rather than the destination.
This is all because of One step....
On August 16, 2009, I was running to Central Park to run the New York City Half Marathon. I never made it to the start line. Instead, I made it to the Emergency Room at New York Presbyterian. On my warm up run to the start, I came upon an intersection in which construction was going on. There was a wall surrounding the construction zone that prevented me from seeing all 3 corners of the intersection. Instead, I could only see the corner that I was crossing too. As I got closer to the intersection, I noticed a hose in the crosswalk. Consciously I told myself, that this is all I need to do is to trip on my way to the race. I stopped running to walk over the hose. That is when I took One Step that changed my life.
With that One Step, a car came out of nowhere and hit me. I flew on to the hood, shattered the windshield with my body weight, flew off of the hood and landed in front of the car. I hit my head on the street and then slowly crawled to the sidewalk to get out of the way. Gratefully two strangers were there and they called 911 and stayed with me, holding my hands until the ambulance arrived.
Everyone says that your life flashes before your eyes when you face a near death experience. For me, I didn't have any memories flash before my eyes, instead, as soon I took that step and the car hit me, my first thought was that I was going to die, get run over or be paralyzed.
There were so many Thank God moments that day. Thank God I stayed conscious. Thank God the driver stopped, Thank God no one was behind him. Thank God I broke my L1 thru L5 where the muscles attach and not near the spinal column. Thank God I didn't need surgery. Thank God for the EMTs and the staff and New York Presbyterian.
A lot of my friends and family asked me if I was going crazy not running. I can understand their concern as I was running 60 to 70 miles a week at that time. I told them that I didn't care about running. What mattered to me was that I could walk, talk and breathe on my own. I was never more present in my life.
My rehab entailed wearing a back brace for 2 months and physical therapy. I remember my doctor telling me in January 2010 that I was about 80% healed and could start running again. He also told me I will come back faster and stronger. This didn't matter to me back then and even now. I didn't start running until I was 100% healed in February. I remember running my first PA (Post accident) mile with my dear friends, Patty and Ken. It meant more to me than any finish line I had crossed!
Once I was mentally and physically better, I realized that there was a reason why I was saved in the state that I was in. That is when I decided to give back to running for what running had given to me. I became a running coach! Running helped me find out what else I was made of, it gave me the confidence I had always been looking for, it brought a community where no one cares about your demographics or career and welcomes you in open arms. No other sport welcomes every age, size and pace.
I feel like my purpose for right now is three fold. First, to help turn running naysayers into yaysayers. For those that hated running because of high school gym teachers and/or coaches, running will give back way more than it asks of you. Especially when you decide the pace. There are no whistles or clipboards. Second, for those that don't think they can do "x", you never know what else you have in you. Let me believe in you until you believe in you. This is from my own personal experience and from working with my clients. This also pertains to more than running. Third, for those that are similar to Denise 1.0, sometimes run a race to just run it, high five those kids, help someone in your circle run their first race, take and give a FREE HUG when you see that sign on the marathon course, be grateful for every start line. We all have seen the spectator sign, "There will come a day when you cannot run, today is not that day!"
It's ironic that that One Step has led me to such a fulfilling career path in which I get to help people every day do something they didn't think they could do. Whether it is their first mile, their fastest marathon! It means just as much as any PR I ever achieved. The latter I can't take with me but the former will be my foot strike that I left on this world.
On this 8 Year Anniversary of that One Step, HAPPY RE-BIRTH DAY TO ME!