A few years ago, my dad (EO) slipped on some acorns and fell while walking in from the garage, breaking his ankle. The healing process took a long time, and through the process, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. As it turns out, he had had mis-diagnosed symptoms for about five years before that, like stumbling occasionally on the steps. His doctor told him “to pick up his feet.” EO’s still pretty pissed and bitter about that.
The symptoms have increased fairly dramatically since the diagnosis. Used to frequent travelling with my mother, he did not slow down, and their schedule wore him out. He got sick, and walking became more difficult. He didn’t want to tell anyone that he had Parkinson’s, and allowed others to think he was “just getting old.” He and my mother moved into a retirement community a couple of years ago. EO uses a walker now as his mobility has decreased significantly.
I started running when I was 21 years old, needing some kind of outlet while taking a semester off from college to try to locate the motivation I needed to finish school. My younger brother had taken up track and cross country in high school, and within a couple of years his three brothers had all followed. I felt good and strong from the beginning, and now, 28 years later, I’ve run on two continents, 47 states, in hundreds of races, and into my second marriage.
Around the same time EO fell, some friends and I decided to run an overnight relay as an ultra team. Six of us split 205 miles through the Smoky Mountains, on trails, dirt roads and backcountry paved roads. The experience left us with the long-distance bug, and I and my two best friends signed up for ultra-marathons, races of longer than 26.2 miles. Now, after three 50ks with more on my schedule, and approaching my fiftieth birthday, I decided to run a fifty-mile race while fifty years old.
This blog will tell those stories: one man losing his ability to get around easily, the other training to run a very long distance in a short time. One is the story of a man approaching one of those milestone birthdays that often causes us to undertake something that proves we’re not getting old, and the other the story of a man who can’t escape the wearing down of functions that proves he is. It will be the story of dealing with the breakdown of a father, and of a wife caring for her ailing husband. Finally, it will be one of those ultra-runner blogs with stories of adventures on trails and in the mountains, highlighting the fifty weeks of training and racing leading up to my goal event, the Ice Age 50 in the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin. Thus the idea for 50 weeks to 50 miles at 50 years was born.
As I worked out the details of my endeavor, I sought a way to make this whole thing mean something more. Raising money to benefit the research going on to understand and cure Parkinson’s Disease was an easy leap. I’ll provide more details about that part of my quest soon.