Bucket Lists – Chapter 22

As 2013 came to a close, I started thinking about my ‘bucket list.’. I think everybody has one – things that you really want to do before you ‘kick the bucket’. For some, it’s skydiving, for others it’s seeing Paris. I put together a bucket list when I was a lot younger, and looking at it, I was surprised to see what I’d already done…but that there were a number of items that still weren’t checked off.

I went skydiving when I was in my 20s…and was glad I got that over with. I ran a marathon before I turned 30, so that was taken care of as well. I HAD ‘learn to ride a motorcycle’ on my list but…..well, you know how that turned out.

After finishing the Indianapolis Monumental Half-Marathon, I wanted to run a full marathon again. I had finished New York in 1989, and the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994…so, 10 years after my accident, 20 years after my previous marathon, and 25 years after my first one, I put the Marine Corps Marathon for the following October on my list. I knew I’d have to train a lot, and I was going to be 53 years old, but I was pretty confident from the recent race. I wondered, what else should I put on my list?

I’d never tried a triathlon before – so I put a ‘sprint’ triathlon on my list. It’s the shortest version, so I figured that wouldn’t take too much effort – I’d only have to swim 750 meters, and the bike / run portions were pretty short.  If I could keep from drowning in those 750 meters, I was confident I could finish the bike and run parts of the race. I put off thinking about how to get in and out of a wetsuit, since that seemed harder than the actual event.

Not finishing the Assault on Mt. Mitchell in 2008 still bothered me. I actually had that ride on my list after reading about it in Bicycling magazine while I was in college. It was one of the few things from my college bucket list that I hadn’t yet completed. I had trained poorly for the previous 2008 attempt, and was in better shape this go-round. There was a six-month gap between the 2014 ride and the Marine Corps Marathon, so I put that on my list. It would give me something to do besides just run all the time, and cross-training would help keep me from getting injured.

Then, I made the mistake of discussing bucket lists on a LinkedIn forum. The group was discussing athletic events and bucket lists. I read through the usual ‘run a marathon’ posts, the more ambitious ‘complete an Ironman triathlon’, and the initial ‘get off the couch and do a 5K’ posts. I had recently seen a video of a building stair climb event, so I (jokingly) posted “I’d like to run up the Empire State Building.”

A little while later, I got a private message from Alicia Windroth O’Neill, the Corporate Events Director for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). I was already familiar with the MMRF, because a high school friend had been diagnosed with the disease, and I had contributed to some fundraising events on his behalf.

Alicia’s note began – “How’d you like to run up the Empire State Building?” I replied, “I was kind of joking when I posted that, but sure, I’d like to try it.” I let her know that I was familiar with the MMRF, and we talked about my friend’s journey, as well as the fundraising he did. She told me that I could get on their team that was running in the event.

I asked what I had to do, and Alicia told me that if I raised $2500 for charity, I’d be guaranteed a spot in the Empire State Building Run-Up in February, 2014. Since I’d been reading up on the event, I knew that was no small feat. The event is held once a year, and only about 500 or so runners are allowed. The reasons are a) The stairway isn’t all that wide, and b) the Empire State Building makes more money on tourist tickets than they do from tenant leases. They can only afford to shut down the building for a couple hours once a year.

Before I thought too much about how hard it would be to train for the event, let alone raise $2500, I said, “Sure.” As Alicia signed me up, she let me know that she was confident I’d have no problem raising the money or training for the event, but she slipped in a disclaimer that if I didn’t raise the money, I’d be making a healthy (but tax-deductible) donation to the MMRF. Even though I knew it would make a huge dent in my bank account if I didn’t raise the funds, I made the commitment and signed up.

2014 was 10 years after my 2004 accident, so it was technically an anniversary to celebrate. In many ways, it was my 10th birthday since learning to walk again. With an air of trepidation and hesitancy, I started to map out how 2014 was going to look.

In February, I had signed up for an indoor rowing competition. Two days later, I’d be heading up to New York City for the Empire State Building Run-Up. In late April, I’d be attempting my first (sprint!) triathlon. In May, I’d go back to Spartanburg, South Carolina for a second attempt to complete the Assault on Mt. Mitchell bike ride. In June, I’d scheduled a second sprint triathlon, just in case I didn’t make the first one.

That gave me about 4 more months to be ready for the Marine Corps Marathon. All I needed to do was keep up my current running fitness, not get injured, do all these other events….THEN double my longest running distance from 13.1 to 26.2 miles in 4 months.

Bucket list, indeed. I’d be lucky if I didn’t kick the bucket.

All I had to do was just keep getting out the door.

After that, the rest was going to be easy.

I hoped.

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