A Journey of a Thousand Miles

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao-Tzu

Today I achieved something momentous, and I almost missed it. I completed my 1,000th mile since I decided to start running again and taking control of my health in August 2010. I’ve run well over 800 of those miles in 2011, including a marathon in March. Just to give you some idea, a thousand miles is approximately the distance from New York City to Daytona Beach, Florida, and farther than the distance between New York City and St. Louis, Missouri. To which I thought to myself, Holy crap! I can’t believe I did that!

A thousand is certainly a nice round number, but in light of Lao-Tzu’s quote, it means something more to me. Today I completed a circle, and now I get to start a new one.

With over a year’s worth of perspective, I better comprehend what a deep mess I was in last year. You can read all about The Great Burnout, but the short of it is that I was physically and emotionally exhausted and in trouble. It was a real low point in my life. It was either do something or fall apart. I am obviously glad of the choice I made. Little did I know where it all would lead.

I remember very well that August day last year, a couple of days before our wedding anniversary as a matter of fact. I laced up a clunky pair of running shoes, strapped on my iPod, and headed out the door for Week 1, Day 1 of the Couch-to-5K program. It primarily involved a walking warm up, alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, a walking cool down, and beaching myself on the couch after the effort. I felt like I weighed every bit of the almost 235 pounds I was then. I plodded along slowly and completed the workout in one piece. It was a manageable effort, and I felt satisfied. I had started, and that, it turns out, was the first step on an amazing journey.

The workouts got much harder. All I wanted to do was complete the 5K autism run that October with a goal of finishing in under 30 minutes. My knees started killing me. I fell back into a despair. But I knew I couldn’t quit. Much more than a 5K was on the line. I was on the line. I told my body I was taking a few days off, but then it was on, regardless of the pain. I don’t normally recommend running in that much pain, but my situation called for desperate action. I pushed through it, completed my training, and eventually finished that 5K in 28:52, with a knee that looked rather like a large grapefruit. I didn’t care. I felt like I was coming back for good.

One thing led to another. My runs got longer. Then one day while on a long run, in a fit of pique, inspiration, or sheer insanity – or all of the above – I decided to set the biggest goal I’d ever thought about going after. I decided to complete a marathon three months from that day. This past March, eight-and-a-half months after I started running again, I crossed the finish line and completed my first marathon.

It is true what they say. The finish line of your first marathon is a transition line for your entire life. You cross over, and your life is never the same again. And it hasn’t been. It showed me that if you keep taking one step after another, anything is possible.

That’s what the J-Man first taught me. His life and growth are a series of steps – some small, some enormous leaps – each hard-won. No particular one may be all that glamourous or noteworthy all by itself, but when slowly but surely added together, they create magic. This is one of the wows of autism. And for me personally, I’ve discovered this is one of the wows of life itself.

I have tried to apply what our J-Man has taught me to my health and fitness, to my work, and to my life. It’s working. I think I get it now. I may be a slow learner, but I have an excellent teacher.

I feel more confident in adding new and harder running goals, working to get our lives in better order, and growing my work and hopefully my income, too. I feel like I have some idea what the heck I’m doing now. Our J-Man showed me the way to believe again.

There’s no magic plan here for you to follow. There’s no checklist to fill out and work through. It’s not quick or easy. You can’t make an infomercial out of it. You most likely won’t get results any time soon, but you will get them. You just decide what your heart wants most, and you go get it. You go outside your proverbial or literal front door, you take a step, then another, and you don’t quit until you get there. There will be setbacks and detours, you will often doubt whether you can do it, but if you keep your eyes on the goal and never quit, you will get there.

I made that journey of a thousand miles. It taught me enough lessons to fill a book. And now I get to begin another journey. Where it will take me next will be beyond anything I can yet imagine. I know it. So today I take that next, single step.

So go take your step. Don’t wait for anything. Right now. Go.

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