The first race in my series is this weekend - there'll be a wooded trail course, hills revealing lovely vistas, copious sunscreen, sweaty spandex, knee-high socks, and slightly suspect food choices. It'll be fun. There will be some who are there to break 100 miles. There will be some who are running their first ultra. There are probably a few there because someone told them they couldn't do it and they accepted the challenge to prove that person wrong.
The funny thing about someone imposing a limitation upon you is that the limitation can become the focus, rather than remembering the reason behind what you wanted to accomplish in the first place. There's also a huge difference between "can't" and "shouldn't." There are physical activities I did before my injuries that I probably shouldn't do now, because there could be some nasty consequences. Doesn't mean I can't do them (ok, fine, if I tried hoisting two sea bags and lugging flight gear to the bird on my stick legs today, probably not going to happen, fair enough - sheesh).
The doctors said I wouldn't get back in the cockpit. I was determined to get there. Yet, there came a point during my recovery when I realized I had to redefine my end-state. Could I sit in full flight gear, for a minimum of four hours, potentially 12, and fly a mission? Probably. Would I be in pain? Assuredly. Was I a liability in the air in that state? Without question. Would the Corps have given me the numerous waivers I would have needed to get back in that coveted seat? Based on my initial inquiries, likely. And as I left base each day, especially days with physical therapy, I knew that my physical self wasn't holding up in the way it needed to in order for me to be the pilot and officer I wanted to be. Beyond that, I was pursuing a goal as if I hadn't already achieved it, and blithely dismissing the long-term health consequences, not to mention glossing over the potential impact on my little ones.
What would be the physical cost to reach 40 sit-ups? What would happen when I hoisted another Marine, most certainly heavier than me, and tried to run with him? (It was inevitably a him.) What would happen if my bird went down, would I be able to help my crew? Would I be able to help myself? I wrestled with these queries, feeling like a failure, and ultimately recognized that I might well could, but that I probably shouldn't, for me and more importantly, for those who were placing themselves in my trust. The question I asked was: Was it worth putting my flight crew, not to mention other Marines and Sailors, at risk just to prove myself? No.
And so I decided to tackle the other thing the doctors said I wouldn't do - run more than three miles (a number they gave me to allow me to pass the Corps' physical fitness test). What better way to prove them wrong than to run for 24-hours?