As readers saw yesterday, my friend Matty finished his first 5K since his nearly fatal auto accident last year. In a post on his personal blog he wrote about his experience during and after the event, and he gave me permission to quote him at length.
“I finished the race (walk) even though volunteers had abandoned their posts, the water station had no water, & the race clock had been put away. So many times I wanted to give up. So many times I wanted to just turn around and go back to my car. So many times I kept asking myself, “Why?”
“I asked that question even as my sweaty, tired body hit the bed. And the answer to the question beyond the pain, beyond the fatigue that follows me today is that I could. Simple as that. Last night was a celebration of sorts, a celebration of life, a celebration of function. Of having a semi-functioning leg that 8 months prior could have ended up being amputated. No telling what the future will hold for my leg, for the time being I am thankful that it is still there painful as it may be…”
Matty’s question, “Why”, is one that crops into my mind now and again. And I’ve written about that one-word question too. In 2007 I rode a century, 100 miles in a day, ten months after learning to ride a bike. Although my knees weren’t as bad as they were to become, I was still a structural wreck, and had to fight through very hard to get to the point I knew I could start a century, let alone finish it.
In 2007 I wrote, “I don’t want to quit. I know why I am riding. I am riding because my limitations are entirely of my own making. I am riding because I couldn’t before. I am riding because I am no longer 400 pounds and unable to move. I ride because I’ve wanted to ride a bicycle for a long, long time. I ride because people tell me I can’t, tell me I shouldn’t. I ride because I am not a fat man on a bike, I am a real cyclist. And I’ve been one for a long time now. This ride only confirms it.”
Your Why will be different from mine, or from Matty’s, or from your neighbors. Motivations are personal. And I used the plural because you aren’t limited to a single reason. However, from comparing my 2007 post to Matty’s, it seems for some of us we do things simply because we can, and we know Can is worth celebrating. Also, pushing your limits gives you a tremendous endorphin rush. This explains how we both managed to push through the pain we experienced in the event – and why we both felt it keenly afterward.
In my case, there’s another reason. Life is full of people who tell you “don’t” and “can’t.” I like to prove them wrong. Not out of spite, but because “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” and being so made I find it hard to justify playing safe or sitting on the sidelines. I spent the first half of my life sedentary. I have time to make up. And as Matty mentioned in his post, who knows how long until the body is no longer able to keep up with what I demand of it?
So that’s my Why. Have you thought about yours?