Triumph of Spirit, Then Marathon II
By Aaron Hale
Physical fitness and staying active have always been a big part of my life. Growing up and and then into adulthood, I was always happiest when I was outdoors. Whether playing backyard football in the snow with my buddies or rock climbing the sandstone ledges just miles from my home, I found joy in getting out and really exerting myself.
When an Improvised Explosive Device took my eyes in 2011, the thought that I may never again be able to get out, stretch my legs, or enjoy sports as I once did were among my first and biggest fears. I soon learned, however, that there are many ways to adapt to my new life. I just had to learn how.
With patience and perseverance I began to fight back against the darkness that had invaded my life. Very soon I was climbing mountains, kayaking white water, and running every day.
I tell people that one of the most difficult things about running blind is that I have to find a guide with sight to run with, but I also tell them that one of the best parts of running blind is that I get a running partner each time I do! One of the most difficult aspects of running quickly turns into one of the most rewarding as blindness makes running literally a team sport.
As I proceeded with my running training, I would want to go farther and faster each time my guide and I would step out. Soon, I was ready for marathons, and two years after my first step on the hardtop, I qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon.
On the day of the 2015 Boston Marathon it was 40 degrees, rainy, and overall miserable—a truly great day for a run! That day was the pinnacle for me. I had reached the Super Bowl of running and could conquer the world.
Unfortunately, just a few months later, I was taken off my feet once again. This time bacterial meningitis invaded my sinuses and destroyed what was left of my hearing and stole my sense of balance..
It has been a long, tough road back to health. After tons of antibiotics, surgeries to restore even a little hearing, countless miles gripping my treadmill's stability bar to regain my balance and fitness, and my amazing family by my side the whole way, I managed to requalify for Boston.
The Marathon is an annual event always held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897 with 18 participants compared with the 30,251 with whom I competed in 2015, the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest marathon.
The push rim wheelchair division is more well-known than the blind/visually impaired division and the mobility impaired program, which have recently gained in popularity. Similar to the running divisions, a set of qualifying times has been developed for these divisions in order to motivate aspiring athletes and ensure competitive excellence.
It was a triumph of spirit to make it across the finish line the first time. Now I am on a mission to show my six-year-old son, Cameron, as well as myself, that we are only defeated if we quit.