The last day of the Relay brought with it incredibly mixed feelings for me. Sure a part of me wanted it to end. My feet were a mess and every step hurt. I was tired. My left hand had begun to tingle. The heat was starting to get to me. But at the same time, the predominant emotion I felt was that I did not want this journey to end. Words like “magical” and “life-changing” feel apt to describe my week running and walking through the desert to help all of those living with MS. And yet they also feel trite and inadequate. I simply don’t know of a way to describe what happened out there. But I can say that it was as though I lived an entirely different life for a week. It was full of emotion and struggle and ultimately victory. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to give of myself and use my talents for running to help others. And I was sad and reluctant to step out of that life and back into my own. It seemed I was saying goodbye to a good friend whom I knew I would never see again. But such is life.
My last day of the Relay was run in honor of my mother, who has been living with MS for 10 years. She is a tough woman. She’s a fighter. She has met this disease head-on and never given in. And she has fared incredibly well all things considered. But it has exacted its toll too. It was for her that I chose to join the MS Run the US Relay. I ran because she can no longer run. I ran because I learned to be strong from her example. When things were hard out there, I remembered those who fight each day with this disease because they have no choice. What I did was far easier than what many do each day living with this disease. And I was honored to do my small part to help.
Perhaps appropriately, my journey was a series of challenges. It felt as though I was being tested throughout this experience. Mere weeks after joining the Relay I woke up one morning and my entire upper back and neck were frozen. After a few days, I couldn’t run at all. That was January and the injury has yet to fully heal. But I decided that this was not a good reason to give up. This was not a reason to stop fighting. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would not let it pass me by. If I was being tested, then I was ready to do what it took to accomplish this goal. And so I decided to start hiking steep trails and walking miles and miles each day. If this injury would not allow me to run, then I would find another way: I would swallow my pride and walk if I had to. And this was not to be the last test. The unexpected challenge seemed to be the theme of my Relay experience. First a surprise military base in the middle of our route threatened a major reroute of the course only 5 miles into my segment. But we found a way around. Then an impassable road turned my 182 mile week into 205 miles. But I covered the miles anyway, doing 50 miles on my fourth day and catching us up. A No Trespassing sign seemed as though it would prevent our final passage into Las Vegas. But then as quickly as we had come to a halt, everything worked out perfectly. I learned many things out there. And as I continue to reflect on the experience, I learn more. But one lesson was clear: if you want something badly enough, you must find a way; you must never give up. Set your ego aside, focus on the goal and decide what really matters. For me it was helping others and running and walking for my mom. And that’s exactly what I did.
There was another thing that pushed me forward and kept me going when challenges were thrown in front of me: this was a Relay. 15 of us covered the 3100 miles from LA to NYC over 5 months. And I had to do my part. I was and am incredibly proud to have been chosen to be one of them. As I ran into Las Vegas, feeling sad for my week of the Relay to end, I thought about my part in this whole. I thought about Adam to whom I would hand the baton. My life-changing week was but one part of a greater event. Others needed their turn. I felt excited for each of them to experience their own journey. And I thought about how amazing this event was and what vision its founder, Ashley Kumlien, has. Not only did she run across the US, she spread the wealth, so to speak. By breaking this cross-country journey into segments, she made it accessible for us “mere mortals.” Ashley is a special person. Thank you for all you have done and all that you do, Ashley.
And so with a heart full of joy and sadness, I turned the final corner into the parking lot of a random park in south Las Vegas. Underneath a banner reading “FINISH” waited my wife and daughter. As I neared, my daughter ran out to meet me. I scooped her up and ran the last feet of my journey with her in one arm and the other raised in triumph, under the FINISH banner and into the arms of my wife. It was the perfect finish to an amazing week. Having my family out there was a huge mental boost each day. It meant more than I can possibly say. I cannot thank them enough for dragging themselves through the desert just to support me. Thank you Heather. And last, I could not have done this without the many, many friends and family and total strangers who supported me by donating to the cause, sending me encouraging notes each day and in myriad other ways. Thank you all. This was truly a team effort.