Bucket-list Antarctic run leads to visionary sightless runner

Is everyone really tired of winter? As I write this blog, it is the end of March and currently snowing, once again, with an anticipated two inches of the pesky white stuff accumulating by the end of the day. 
 
Enough already! 
 
I love living in the Midwest because of our four separate and distinct seasons. Just when we get tired of one season, we usually progress to the next with its own unique character. It seems as if Old Man Winter just didn't get the memo that his usual allotted time has more than expired this year.
 
Well, enough of the winter blues rant. It’s time to overcome and move on.
 
In past blogs, you have met some amazing people who, despite the odds, have overcome challenges and made healthy living a priority, improving not only their quality of life but, undoubtedly, their longevity. 
 
Adversity is a given in our lives; how we choose to deal with each challenge is a choice.
 
Safe return doubtful?
I was extremely fortunate and blessed with the opportunity to travel to Antarctica at the beginning of March to run a marathon.
Yes – Antarctica. The bottom of the world. The South Pole. Penguins. Ships stuck in the ice. You know – the explorer, Ernest Shackleton, whose newspaper advertisement soliciting a crew for his ship, the Endurance, read:
 
“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”1
 
After my rant about the long winter, you might think I am crazy. And you might be right. But this was, indeed, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I simply could not pass up. Since I completed my 50-state marathon quest in 2009, I needed a new challenge. So why not a seven-continents quest, and why not start with the hardest of all? 
 
In reality, the race was, in fact, the hardest run I have ever completed. But I was smiling ear-to-ear, giddy with excitement, every step of the muddy 26.2-mile course. (More on this in future blogs.)
 

My wife, Laura, and I met some pretty incredible people on our journey to the far reaches of our wonderful planet. Probably the most incredible and motivational person I met on this trip, or anywhere for that matter, is Hein Wagner (the gentleman on the left in the photo). Hein was born with retinitis pigmentosa, which robbed him of his sight from birth. Despite this, Hein has led an extremely full, productive and fascinating life as a global adventurer, working as a motivational speaker in his home country of South Africa. He created the VisionTrust Foundation in 2007 to assist others with visual impairments in living full, productive lives. Among other adventures and achievements, Hein holds the land speed record for a sightless driver. (No kidding – look it up!) People often refer to him as a blind man with exceptional vision. 
 
Hein ran the Antarctic Marathon – the first blind person to ever do so. (Remember, this was the hardest race course I have ever completed.) He ran with the assistance of Nick Kruiskamp, a sighted guide that he had met only days before the race. They had never run
 together, and Nick had never run while guiding a sightless runner. (Why not choose the hardest race in the world to cut your chops on being a human guide dog?) 
 
To watch them finish this extremely challenging race was one of the most exhilarating and motivational achievements I have ever witnessed. Nick will admit that it was Hein who carried him over the final miles of this grueling race, lifting the lagging spirits of his guide and pushing him to the finish line.
 
Hein proves that there is no such thing as a disability, only life challenges. And, it is our choice as to how we are going to meet these challenges. Hein epitomizes my "No Excuses" motto each and every day.
 
Thank you, Hein and Nick, for opening my eyes!
 
Now that spring has arrived, what are you going to do to challenge yourself and knock down those self-imposed barriers to a healthier you?
 

 

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