Friday, November 5, 2010

Not Your Typical Motivational Speaker

Several years ago, on the way back from a long ride, my knees were achy. I had gone on a hilly course, and even with 20 gears on my bicycle I was pretty worn out. All I had to do was crest one more modest hill, and I would just about be home. It didn't feel easy, and I was griping to myself about that nagging pain.

Just as I reached the top a guy passed me going the other direction. He was perfectly balanced on his bike-- and pedaling at a comfortable pace--but he had only one leg. I stopped griping immediately.

I've seen that same gentleman many times since. Even in the last few weeks, as I tapered down to the marathon, I saw him pass me by. He's not racing or pushing; he just glides along. I often wonder what he would do if he had to catch himself in an emergency, but his demeanor says that he's got that pretty well figured out, too. I admire and respect people that can overcome physical odds to do things that many others would probably just not try.

The picture shown here is of another person with a relentless, positive attitude. I literally came across John Tartaglio at Mile 14 of the 2009 New York City Marathon. He had been ahead of me up to that point, but the arduous task he faced made mine pale in comparison as I gradually caught up.

It's kind of hard to tell what he's doing in the picture, but Tartaglio is "running" with no legs. He lost them both--almost all of the way up to the hip--to an infection when he was in high school.

To ambulate, he straps both of his stumps to a single spring and then competes on crutches. I described the sight later to friends by saying that he "runs" on a tripod. He usually competes in his racing wheelchair, but his goal that day was to become the first amputee missing his thigh bones to run NYCM.

It was truly an amazing thing to witness, and I was not embarrassed to stare for a while at an incredible example of perseverance and courage in a young man of just 22 years. And, yes, I learned later, he does make motivational speeches. I'd like to hear him.

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