As some of you might know, I was born with a major heart defect, and at 6 months old I underwent massive heart surgery. The surgeons did a valve repair and replace veins in my heart. The condition is called Tetralogy of Fallot. To this day I have an incredible heart murmur. In fact I have had doctors call in other doctors to listen to my heart. A heart murmur has a whooshing sound from the flow of blood moving past the valve when it should be closed. At first the doctors said I would not be able to walk very short distances without having to sit down and catch my breath. I have been trying to prove those doctors wrong my whole life. I played Youth Hockey for six years and I was in Marching Band in high school. Today, I kayak, bike, lift weights, and now I can say I am a runner.
In an effort to keep pushing these boundaries set upon me at a young age, I decided to run in the 36th Annual Cooper River Bridge Run here in Charleston. It is a 10k that starts in Mount Pleasant, races over the Cooper River Bridge, through downtown Charleston, and ends at Marion Square. I started training about 16 weeks before the Race. Now I use the word “train” loosely. Before the race the longest run I was able to complete was 40 minutes. Charlie was my training partner, always way ahead trying to pull me faster, or was it trying to find his next spot to lift his leg at. I will be honest and mention that I was extremely nervous about the run, especially without Charlie.
So I awoke at 4:30 in the morning on the day of the race and left our warm home with our friends Lindsay and Andy and Cameron and Christina to stand in the cold for about 3 hours to start the race. Mel stayed home with Lindsay and Andy’s adorable 10 month old daughter Emma June. At about 8:00 I was at the starting line ready to start the run.
An hour and fourteen minutes later I crossed the finish line. A mixture of emotions was flowing through me. First was relief! Honestly, as “fun” as it was I was so happy for it to be over. The next thing I felt was pain. My legs and hips were killing me and continued to get worse as the weekend progressed. Next, I was PUMPED!!! The adrenaline and endorphins were in high gear. Lastly was shock- did I really just run 6.2 miles when I was told I would not be able to walk a block?
I know it is risky to keep pushing my limits, but as the great character Walter Bishop from the TV show Fringe said “Only those who risk going too far find out how far they can go.” I do not know if I would be the same person I am today if it were not for my heart defect and I hope that my wife and my daughter draw some inspiration from that. Penny, I promise to always encourage you to pursue what you truly desire, even if others doubt you, and even when you doubt yourself. Be inspired to be different, be yourself, and be determined to gain the things in life that matter to you. My heart condition has never stopped me from doing anything, in fact it has made me determined to do more. I will not discount the fact that there is always a variable of luck in life, just as I was lucky when I needed a calculator that day in high school when I first talked to the girl that would change my life.