Run, Tom, Run: And other stories of encouragement

stories of encouragementEvery Friday, we share a big leap from a guest contributor. Tom Garrity is a good friend and fellow runner. We like to compete on Runkeeper and generally stay on top of each other's training. But Tom. Tom runs. and he started a very cool program I wanted to share with you today. Thanks for the guest post, Tom!  PS. I hope he doesn't mind, I grabbed this photo from his Facebook feed, of his Father giving him encouragement years ago.

Forrest Gump ran for three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours.

April 15, 2013, the day of the Boston Marathon, marked an important date for me. It was three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours earlier that I ran the first two miles for what would be the first of three marathons, three half marathons, one ultramarathon and three 200-mile cross-country relays.

Despite all of that, it was that first two-mile run that did me in. I remember it like it was yesterday. A giant replica of a green brontosaurus dinosaur marked my start and finish. The Bosque Trail, along the river, was my turnaround. Everyone I was running with was running for a reason. They had a friend or loved one battling an illness. Like Forrest Gump, I just started running; no reason, no goal, no purpose.

That night, cruising Facebook, I saw a high school friend, Pete, was starting his chemo treatment the next day. He had a blood cancer.

I sent him an email and provided him some encouragement, the best I could over email. They were experiencing a range of emotions as you can imagine: They were stressed, sad, hopeful and doing what they could to discard despair, while clinging to faith. That's when it hit me. I told them about my two-mile run and that I'd like to run my race for him… I wanted him to know that when he was undergoing chemo someone was thinking about him and praying for healing and encouragement.

So, I ran.

Two marathons later, he is in remission. The only encouragement I could think to provide, was to send him my medals.

I had his name and my time engraved on the back, with my initials next to the time. Since that day more than three years ago, I’ve had the chance to send Pete five medals. The last was a 200-mile relay. Over the course of training for these races, I’ve logged more than 2,220 miles through the asphalt jungle.

Pete wrote back about the great encouragement the medals provided. Here is where it gets good. He is a motivational speaker, and shares the stories behind the medals as an encouragement to other people.

His encouragement led me to help a client and friend Linda Kay. My last marathon, through the Valles Caldera in Northern New Mexico, was for her. After a radical lung removal and other surgeries, she is still alive and kicking. She shows the medal to those who go to her office and shares the story of encouragement and survival.

But then I started thinking, they are just two people.

In 2009, there were 1,555,143 people in the United States suffering from the effects of cancer.

Last year, 528,375 people finished a marathon in 658 races in the United States.

What if only half of them… or even a quarter of them gave their medal away to someone who was undergoing chemo or other radical life changing event? Then 132,093 people, going through a traumatic medical event will be encouraged knowing that the spirit of self sacrifice is still alive in the midst of their uncertainty.

That’s why my big leap was to develop a program called One Medal.

Every runner has one race and one medal to give for someone. One Medal encourages the gift of encouragement and empowerment for people who are enduring what appears to be insurmountable adversity.

One Medal celebrates the successes of those who participate in endurance events for someone either in memory of or, or in honor of, as an encouragement for their recovery.

Encouragement has no cost, and neither does One Medal! The website features encouraging stories of different “One Medal” moments who practice the gift of self sacrifice.

My call to action is this… if you run, why do you run? Who do you run for? Yourself? #FAIL! Run for someone, provide encouragement, let your sacrifice of running time on your legs be spent to provide someone, maybe a stranger, peace… if only for a moment.

Note from Lisa: I'm working on my story for One Medal! Are you? 

Tom Garrity is the owner of The Garrity Group in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Aside from running, he loves fly fishing and bubble gum. I sort of think he's a TCU Frogs fan too.