I was very inspired by this article that I read the other day about Monique van der Vorst, who became paralyzed in one leg at the age of 13 after a routine ankle operation caused nerve damage. She had just taken up cycling prior to the operation.
She was confined to a wheelchair for 13 years, during which time she took up hand cycling and competed on national and international levels. She won six European and three world championship titles. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!
Tragically (or though it may have seemed), she was hit by a car in 2008. The accident caused damage to her spinal cord and she was completely paralyzed from the waist down. Later that same year, she won two silver medals at the Beijing Paralympic Games.
In 2010, while training for the 2012 paralympics and when she considered herself to be in the ‘best shape ever’, she was involved in yet another accident (which again, probably seemed really tragic at the time). What happened here is amazing. “Her body went into spasm and she started to feel tingling on first one foot and then the other. By the end of the year, she was walking again.” Wow.
“She has now swapped her hand bike for a regular model and has started racing competitively. Earlier this week, she was signed by the Dutch Rabobank’s women’s cycling team, where she will train with some of the world’s best…Mr. Eisenga [Rabobank’s press officer] said, ‘When we met Monique, we saw an athlete with incredible willpower and the right mentality for sport.’…Asked if she might make it to the Olympics, he said: ‘In sport, everything is possible.’”
While it is truly miraculous that through a series of tragic incidents van der Vorst regained her ability to walk, what inspired me the most was her drive and determination when she was paralyzed. She never gave up. When she was faced with challenges it only made her push herself to a new level of excellence.
I can’t help but try to apply this story to my situation. While I am far from being paralyzed, I’m faced with an injury that has kept me from running. My back is feeling much better than it did 5 weeks ago when I first hurt it, but it’s still there and I know I’m not ready to run yet. I have been cycling, lifting weights, doing yoga, and walking.
Part of me has enjoyed this break from running because I’ve been able to do different things, but I have also really missed being able to just go for a run. I really do think (and hope and pray) that I will return to running soon, and I really do want to be able to run at least one marathon in my life. But I have also considered that maybe my body just can’t handle the stress of running a marathon without breaking. And you know what? That’s okay.
Yes, I am going to try again. I am going to try my hardest to never give up. But if I find that running a marathon is not what I’m supposed to do, I am going to be the best at whatever it is I AM supposed to do. I want to run more (and faster) half marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks. I want to start running on trails. I want to be a better cyclist and not be so afraid to let go of the brakes when I’m going downhill. Regardless of what I’m doing, I want to make fitness a priority for the rest of my life.
I’ve always felt like every true runner has to run a marathon at least once. But then I’m reminded of this quote by John Bingham, which says, “If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” So true.
Please don’t read this as me giving up on myself and saying that I’m never going to run a marathon. While I can’t guarantee that I will run a marathon, I can guarantee is that I will try. And if I fail at that, I’m going to try to succeed at something else.
We can all learn from Monique van der Vorst. Whatever you're doing, always give it your best and try your hardest. And no matter what your circumstances, never ever EVER give up.