Grand Rapids is home to the country’s largest 25K. You have to train for 15.5 miles of continuous running. You must complete it within 3.5 hours. My three brothers and I were excited to complete this together.
Unfortunately, a few days before the event, my brother Mark found out what a gout attack was. The night before, Mark and his son flew in from out of town and had some pasta with us. He had a hard time standing, let alone walking. He purchased crutches. I packed a camping chair so he’d be able to cheer us on from the streets of Grand Rapids.
His son finished the 5K in great time. Then, about 20 minutes before the start of the big race, my oldest brother Mike and I were stretching for the long race ahead and began to joke with Mark: “You know, you paid for this and trained for it… perhaps you can put on that shirt, put on the bib, go to the end of the line, and use your crutches to go one mile! Imagine Channel 8 zooming in to say ‘Now, THERE’S a trooper…’ LOL…” Mark decided, why not? It’s only a mile and he could at least be a part of the event.
Mike and I took off. It was a great race for the two of us. I had a tough time for the first few miles with a stiff back, but loosened up and had a second wind beginning at mile seven. As I proudly finished with a personal best and a cartwheel, I found my son and wife and hugged them. They had just finished their 5K earlier. They then said, “Did you know Mark is at mile eight?” Mike then finished his first 25K with a smile and learned about Mark. We just asked, “Really? Are you sure?” At mile eight, there’s only one way back: Completing the whole thing.
At noon, just as the once-closed streets of Grand Rapids were opening back up, a man carrying his crutches jogged around the final corner. With his family walking behind him and clapping, he completed the 25K.
Marks’ ReChoice: After one mile, he figured he’d go one more. After a few miles, his feet were numb. At this point, he figured he could gingerly run and carry his crutches. He also realized a benefit: All future races would seem easier. After several miles, he was able to increase speed. He was joyful while meeting other runners along the way. It was a finish he’d never forget… and neither would we!