I’m running the Chicago Marathon. I am not a runner. I have run other races before, but none of this distance. None in this town. And certainly none for this reason.
A friend brought Griffin into my class about six months ago. I had some advanced notice he was coming, and that only made it slightly easier. I made sure there was no throwing in class, and that everyone would remain relatively stationary during the workout. We took all the necessary precautions, but it still didn’t make it any easier on me as a coach. But I needed to stop thinking about what would make things easier for me.
I didn’t even need to make it any easier for Griffin. He is visually impaired. And he’s a beast. I’m running the Chicago marathon as his guide. This is my first marathon. It’s his fourth. He’s completed cycling races, goes to workout classes, plays sports – pretty much anything anyone else can do. His disability has not slowed him down in the least, and I can’t tell you how motivating it is to see him in action, despite missing something so vital to my everyday life. Something I just wake up and am blessed to have.
“There are obstacles to just about everything you want to do, but you just gotta find a way around them.”
Griffin has made a ton of friends through athletics, so he wanted to help other visually-impaired people, or VIPs, experience the same benefits that sport has given him. He created The Foreseeable Future, a foundation dedicated to enriching the lives of VIPs through recreation, and helping them bond with sighted individuals. We hosted an event for Griffin’s foundation and it was one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve had with our business.
After attending one of Griffin’s event a few weeks back, I realized the foundation also helps sighted folks walk in the shoes of VIPs – by blindfolding everyone. It was a frightening experience, even in a relatively tranquil art museum. A guide provided detailed descriptions of each piece, challenging our imaginations to paint a picture of the art in our minds.
That was the easy part. When told to move on to the next exhibit, that’s when the cold sweats started. Bad ones too – way worse than when you tap your pockets and think your phone is gone. I broke out in more cold sweats in that 90-minute period than I’d like to think about. I even felt self-conscious wondering if I was facing the right exhibit. I struggle to imagine the intense feelings experienced while trying to get on a subway, cross a street, or run 26 miles with 40,000 others. It upped my appreciation, compassion, and empathy for those that live it every day.
One of the first things I asked Griffin on our initial training run together was if there was anything his impairment has stopped him from doing. His answer was, “No, I can do anything, I just need to find someone to do it with me.” He’s made a lot of friends with his outgoing personality and athletic prowess, so he has lots of activities to choose from, and plenty of people willing to join him. He went on to say, “There are obstacles to just about everything you want to do, but you just gotta find a way around them.”
This statement has made me rethink the way I view everything. It’s made the negative thoughts that pop into my head seem so trivial. It’s easy to cling to excuses because they always seem to arrive first. I’ve since made a conscious effort to recognize this and let them pass. If I think past them, there is always something helpful that comes right after. I realize I just need to hang in there long enough, kind of like this marathon. I know the first few miles will be tough (and the last few!). But if I hang in there long enough, I’ll finish all 26.2 miles – with a new medal, a new friend, and a new outlook.