Since starting this blog I have had several people tell me that I am “an inspiration” to them. I’ve gotten some of the sweetest emails from complete strangers telling me that they find my story “inspirational” and that they are cheering for me on my Ironman journey. When I hear these comments, or read these emails, I am always flattered and touched by their sweet words; but, I never truly believe it because I don’t think I’m inspirational at all.
Last weekend I took an open water swim clinic and swam in open water for the first time. Before I actually got in the water I was TERRIFIED. My heart rate was 110 as I was just sitting in my chair looking at the lake in front on me. Once I actually started swimming those fears quickly subsided, but that was definitely not an inspirational moment. Later that afternoon I was supposed to run 8 miles and the last 5 miles turned into an ugly mix of run/walking because I was already beat from the 3 hour swim clinic and I forgot how terrible running in the North Carolina heat and humidity is. Again, that isn’t even in the same ballpark as someone who is inspirational, instead – let me introduce you to Ellie, my inspiration.
I’ve been blessed enough to have meet Ellie through the I Run 4 Michael (IR4) program. IR4 is an online community where athletes “run for” people with special needs. I heard about the IR4 program a few years ago and fell in love with the concept of dedicating my runs and workouts to a kid who has special needs. June 2016 I was so excited when I received a notification that I had been matched with a little girl! My IR4 buddy, who I usually refer to as my warrior, has Down Syndrome and spent the first 7 months of her life in and out of various hospitals. She has had several major surgeries and too many medical procedures to count. When I think about my medical issues, and how traumatic they were for me, it’s hard for me to imagine all that Ellie has been through in only 4 and a half years. Last year I was planning to travel to Ohio to finally meet Ellie and complete a Spartan Race with her dad. However, thanks to my pancreas that trip didn’t happen. I am so excited to say that in two weeks I am traveling to Ohio to meet my warrior and her awesome family. There is a 5k in her hometown that we will be doing.
The quote, “The struggle ends when the gratitude begins” helped me get through a lot of scary painful experiences last year. I tried (not always successfully) to find things to be grateful for when all I wanted to do was throw a pity party for myself. When I look at Ellie, I am filled with gratitude that I get to play a small part in her story. When I look at Ellie’s parents I see a living example of finding gratitude and being thankful for the small things. Ellie – I can’t wait to meet you this month! Thank you for being my inspiration, my push to run one more mile, and teaching me to run with my heart when my legs say no.