Where My Feet Have Carried Me

Where My Feet Have Carried Me
By Mark Jordan

At TellabsIf I was writing this prior to May 13th, 2013 I would have described how my feet have carried me on multiple journeys to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, treks up the rivers and on the mountains in Denali National Park, and hikes on the Appalachian Trail, in Glacier National Park, and elsewhere during my Boy Scout years.  Before that life-altering day in May these words would have focused on the memories of early walking dates with my wife-to-be when we waded through rivers, plodded in snowfields, and crawled into caves.  During our nearly 45 years together we have travelled by foot in forest, tundra, desert, mountains, country roads and cities.  My feet have carried me to many wonderful and beautiful places with friends and family.  But as I aged and as my teaching career and growing family needed more and more of my time and energies my feet carried me less and less and my health and weight suffered.

In May of 2013 I found myself in an ambulance.  The person who once ran a six minute mile, a 44 minute 10K, participated in half marathons, coached distance runners in track and trained a state champion cross country team was heading to the hospital with three arteries of the heart more than 95% clogged.  In addition to being overweight I had high blood pressure, diabetes II, and sleep apnea.  The feet that once carried me many miles in many beautiful places were sticking out from beneath a blanket and were cold.

On May 13th, 2013, no steps were taken, my feet carried me nowhere.  I was wheeled into an operating room and received a triple bypass operation.  Recovery began with a very painful, very long night tempered by the permanent presence of my wife.  Two days later she held my arm as we walked from my bed into the hallway.  We progressed to walking from one end of Intensive Care to the other and climbing two flights of stairs.  During the next few weeks at home she guided me to the end of the block, to the school a quarter mile away and then a mile on a wooded trail.  My feet were carrying me farther and farther.  I was becoming obsessed with moving.  I looked forward to my three short walks each day and began to push myself.  My diet changed.  Pounds were shed.  Six weeks after surgery I received permission from my doctor to walk in a 5K.  The permission was based on my wife accompanying me and making sure I did not go too fast.  Fifty-two minutes after the gun we crossed the finish line.  I was proud of our walk and felt as if I had won an Olympic event.  And I had a new shirt.

LPHMIn the last three years my feet have carried me over 10,000 miles.  They have carried me on the course of 5ks, 10ks and half marathons.  I have been in 70 races and earned several age group and walking division medals.  I have far too many T-shirts. My feet have carried me through sore muscles, sweaty clothes and the loss of 80 pounds.  My blood pressure is normal.  My blood sugar is normal.  I no longer need a C-Pap machine to sleep.  It has been a long time since I have felt as well and as good as I now do.  I feel as if I experienced old age in my 40’s and 50’s and finally, in my 60’s, I am enjoying my new found middle age.  But I no longer run or jog.  I have become a walker.

There are many ways to walk.  I can take the dogs out for a long walk.  I can hike.  I can go on a stroll with the family.  I can power walk.  And I can race walk.  My feet have carried me to a new sport, one at which I used to laugh.  I have discovered that race walking is not an easy activity.  There are specific rules for technique.  The form is more restrictive than running.   Walking at a good speed engages and strengthens the muscles, lungs, heart and mind.  It takes discipline and mental fortitude.  Over the years I had lost strength, energy, motivation and determination.  It is good to earn them back.  From my 5K time of 52 minutes I have dropped to 30 minutes and a few seconds.

 

I am grateful to the medical professionals who asked the right questions and ran the right tests to discover and correct my condition.  I am thankful for all the nurses and others who guided me through my recovery.  My children, friends, former students and others have been encouraging and supportive of my journey.  If I had the power to bestow sainthood my wife would be Saint Patti.  My feet have carried me to a new outlook on life.  A grumpy old man has been transformed, by walking, by eating healthy, by prayers of thanksgiving, into someone I can live with and be proud of.

 

My walking may not add one day to my life but it has changed the quality of each day.  I have goals again.  It is easy to get out of bed.  I have become more aware of the lilac, the song of the cardinal and the diverse odors along the trails.   My feet have taken me out of the recliner, away from the refrigerator, beyond the remote and out the door.  My feet have allowed me to race walk past Lincoln’s home with my wife, hike in the Rockies with my children and wrestle with my grandsons.

 

QCSO 2016This morning my daughter drove me to a spot on a rural road eight miles from home.  “See you in a couple hours,” she said and drove away.  The temperature was 86º, dark clouds were rolling in from the west, and a slight breeze enveloped me as I headed home.   For the next 115 minutes my feet carried me past farmhouses and fields, underneath tall oaks, and alongside the Rock River.    I picked up some trash and had to dodge a car and a truck.  I arrived home thirsty, sore and drenched in sweat, but I felt wonderful and blessed that my feet have brought me to this point in my life.   My feet have carried me many places.  I am grateful to all, from family and friends to the Moon Joggers community, who have encouraged and motivated these feet.  May we all continue to celebrate movement and motion and appreciate the wonder of each step.  Be you runner, jogger, or walker may your feet carry you well.

 
About Me:  My wife and I currently live in northern Illinois.  I am a retired teacher that works part time as a math-science tutor at a small university.  My wife was a school-district nurse and now works as a Critical Care nurse.  We spent the bulk of our careers living in rural Alaska where winter walks required a lot of layers to tackle the sub zero temperatures.  We have four grown children and two grandsons.  I am often accompanied on my walks by our pair of Bernese Mountain dogs.

 

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