Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

The Broken Road

Posted on Mar 30, 2011 in Featured |

The Broken Road

I don’t really know Ed. Nothing but a company cocktail party and a brief office intro bind Ed and me. But Ed, Ed has become a household name for us and an endlessly interesting topic of conversation. Ed is running across America. With his legs. With his family. With his spirit.

We’re each driven and drawn to people and things that can do the unthinkable. There’s Alain Robert, the French Spiderman dude who climbs buildings with his bare hands. His sole motivation? The thrill of calculated risk and “mastering my fear.” And how about the blind Kenyan runner Samuel Muchai who is racing toward the London Olympics who brushes off fear daily, ““While we train on the roads, we sometimes tumble into potholes and stones, but I believe such experiences only harden us.”  And then, an athlete that moves me to tears for her stunning composure is Abby Sunderland, who at 16 set out to sail around the world alone, only to hit hard waves in the Indian Ocean and capsize, while millions of people watched and waited. “I’m living proof that things don’t always work out the way you plan,” she said, “but you can only plan so far in an adventure.”

Ed set out to run across America on March 1. Sixteen days later, beaten down by weather and some freak-of-nature elephantiasis-looking thing in his leg, Ed had to stop running. Like I said, I don’t know Ed well, but I can tell you this: a little rain and ankle pain doesn’t keep Ed from running.  Boom! Just like that, a trip of a lifetime squelched.

Suddenly, Ed’s run across America — a feat that less than 300 people have ever done —  became Ed’s long motorhome drive back across the country with an ice pack on his ankle and a lot of extra Coast-to-Coast  t-shirts hanging around. And although he had raised $9000 for Freedom is Not Free, Ed became one of the extraordinary athletes whose body sidelined its owner’s drive.

I crafted an email to Ed over and over again. La Gringa and I bantered about a condolence gift — a case of wine? A hefty bottle of Maker’s Mark? We even looked for an “I’ll Be Back” t-shirt to give him. But, there is really nothing you can say to an extreme athlete whose been benched. High expectations have a long way down when they fall short.

What inspires me about extreme athletes like Ed is their ability to push the mind and body simultaneously; to conquer fear and tune-out negative doubt mongers. As an afraid person, I am drawn to people who are fearless. Fearless and reckless are very different things. Abby Sunderland was rescued, but not deflated. Her life’s goal: to take her Wild Eyes sailboat and head back out around the world, cold and alone into the waters that nearly drowned her.  Ed will head back out across the country again when he is healed. It’s an extraordinary quality I wish I had more of.

If Ed had made it this time, he’d have a lifetime of stories to tell. Instead, now, the stories are in front of him, not behind him. The glory is yet to be had, but there is something equally inspring about grace in defeat.