Life takes unpredictable twists and turns. The true test of toughness and resilience is best measured during the most challenging times.
Ten years ago, my role model was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD), a chronic and progressive movement disorder affecting more than 10 million people worldwide. Always worrying about others, my father kept his condition from me and my siblings, likely to avoid us the stress or concern. He thrives on helping others and controlling his own destiny. Unfortunately, this disease is not so accommodating.
Just like his previous health battles with cancer (including a stem cell transplant), my father confronted Parkinson’s with speech therapy, water aerobics, plenty of rehab and a cocktail of specialized medications.
Despite having his moments, he is determined to make life as normal as possible. Except now, he worries about freezing, where he loses control of his legs, not allowing him to get up from the dinner table or movie chair. Routine activities like showering or shaving are no longer simple actions, but rather stressful ones — physically and mentally.
When the opportunity to run the NYC Marathon as a Parkinson’s Champions was presented to me, I felt compelled to accept the invitation. Just over 20 years ago, I ran the NYC marathon and asked my wife,
Amy, to marry me at mile 16. Her saying “yes” fueled me through the remaining 10 long miles until I fell (or collapsed) into her open arms at the finish line. The timing was amazing as I had just celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary.
In 2017, through Parkinson’s Champions I was able to honor my father and the determination he shows daily. I signed up. I decided I would use all the inspiration available as my body had morphed a bit over the last 20 years. Knowing my legs would inevitably feel like sand bags at mile 18, I will draw motivation from my father and his determination to fight.
The race went off without a hitch compared to the snow and frigid weather 22 years ago. While anxiously anticipating the start gun, I connected with a member of Team Fox. We shared personal stories about the impact of this disease on our loved ones, families and the challenges and frustrations our loved ones deal with on a daily basis. Finally, we turned to the positive side of the continuing breakthroughs and expert care. That fired us up as the national anthem played. Then, 50,000 runners were off.
It was amazing to see my family at different spots along the route. I also drew motivation from the tunes playing throughout the race, like the Rocky theme, church choirs and cheers from the New Yorkers who lined up to see us run.
Four plus hours later, I finally entered Central Park — the last push. My legs felt like concrete, which only reminded me of how my dad must feel so often. The second I thought of him I gained superpower strength and pushed through to the finish line with a giant smile on my face.
Running as a Parkinson’s Foundation Champion was so special for me and my family and resulted in donating more than $20,000 to helping people with Parkinson’s live better lives!
Interested in running as a Parkinson’s Champion? Learn more about our endurance races at Parkinson.org/Champions.