A friend of mine told me today that I was her "hero." Knowing her, I just assumed she was being sarcastic. But upon further prompting she told me she was only half-kidding and actually found my story (or at least the story I've been revealing on Facebook) very inspiring. She's let herself go for a while and has told me that she is overweight, out-of-shape, and at 38 years-old has recently been diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes that she takes 5 medications per day to control. Now, I'm certainly no hero. I've never claimed to even have done anything heroic. In fact, I don't even much like the term. But, if my story can inspire others to take charge of their lives and fitness, then so be it. I'll deal with it much like collateral damage. The subsequent conversation I had with my friend is what helped me realize I actually have a story to tell and inspired me to start this whole blogging thing. What follows in this post is that conversation (from my end only) edited, excerpted, embellished, and summarized as best I can...

Being a firefighter I see/hear the "hero" label thrown around a lot. Just like MOST (I say "most" as there are those of us who legitimately have "hero complexes") firefighters when people refer to me as a hero or otherwise put my profession on a pedestal I always say that I'm just a guy doing a job like any other. I am a highly trained professional whose training minimizes danger and stresses safety over all else. I do the job because I love it, occasionally I get the very real feeling that I am actually helping someone in need, and honestly, the schedule lets me spend the most time I can with my family.

When I started out on this journey, like most undertakings, it was very self-serving. Every year in the firehouse we have a "Biggest Loser" competition, and every year I start out heavier than the previous year. This year I was 264 pounds when it started in March. I was determined to win this year since I'd come in second place in previous years. Besides, there was over $1000 at stake, and I had extra motivation this year, as my 20-year class reunion was coming-up in June. I ended-up losing the competition by 0.1%, and ended-up at 216 lbs. at the weigh-in on May 20th. At least I looked good for my reunion!

I have a problem. Whenever I set my mind to doing something, it's usually all or nothing. A constant source of frustration for my wife, just ask her. I tend to push myself too hard physically. I found that the weeks when I mixed running in with the elliptical, bike, or Stairmaster, I tended to lose more weight. I hate running, I always have. Throughout my weight-loss phase, I learned a lot about myself, slowly the barriers I had in my mind about being "able" to run came down. One day during a 5 mile run, I felt a huge endorphin rush and I suddenly realized I could probably go much further. It was then and there that the first inkling of the thought of doing a marathon "someday" crossed my mind. Then on May 27th, a misstep led to an accident while stepping-out of the ambulance at work. I tore my meniscus in my left knee. I thought then and there that my new found enthusiasm for running was done. I, of course, never thought I would run again. I imagined myself losing all of the ground I had gained during the "Biggest Loser" and starting the competition again in 2010, even heavier than before.

I took the bull by the horns so-to-speak and was able to get a referral to an orthopedic surgeon widely regarded as the best "knee guy" in New England. He does knee surgeries for all of the major sports teams (Sox, Celts, and Pats). One of the guys I work with had his ACL's replaced by him. His whole practice is focused around active individuals and athletes so they come at the problems from a unique perspective. Unfortunately, after my first meeting with the Dr. the prognosis wasn't good. He believed that I had a lateral meniscus tear in my right knee, but it wasn't showing on the MRI. He explained to me that MRI's aren't a good diagnostic tool for knees because they aren't performed in position(s) of function, etc. But because mine was a worker's compensation case, worker's comp wouldn't approve any kind of surgery without a definitive MRI or with no improvement after several weeks of physical therapy. He sent me to his "most aggressive" therapist (Office, PT and Surgical Suites all under one roof) and scheduled a follow-up for 5 weeks. By the time of my PT evaluation, being on crutches and otherwise favoring my right knee had started to bother my left knee which I had dislocated two years prior. My therapist believed I had a medial meniscus tear in my left knee. the scenario he laid out for me wasn't pretty and ended in surgery to both knees.

I got really down and depressed, feeling sorry for myself during the months of PT leading-up to surgery. I worked hard on all of my strengthening exercises only to see no improvement in either knee. While I was out of work I occupied myself with coordinating and putting together a 5k run to benefit the MDA (Jerry's Kid's) that my wife had conceived and we'd been working on for a couple of years. I recruited runners, raised money, solicited corporate sponsorships and pieced together all of the logistics. I had surgery on August 25th, and our First Annual Lex's Run happened on September 12. We had 27 runner's in the pouring rain and raised over $4000 for the MDA. During the months of recovery afterward, my physical therapist (who was absolutely incredible, by-the-way) psychoanalyzed me (he said he noticed I was "a bit down") and got me thinking again about running a marathon. I decided that I wanted to run the Boston Marathon on April 19, 2010 and I was going to run for charity because I would never be able to qualify (this year). My therapist pushed me harder than anyone has pushed me in my life, and got me right back into running shape in no time at all..

In March, my dear friend and former roommate had a daughter (Brenya) born with a serious brain malformation called Polymicrogyria. Brenya spent a large portion of her short life at Children's Hospital. The Boston Marathon has several "approved" charity partners, and I was drawn to Children's Hospital due in part to my work as a paramedic, but also because of Brenya's story. I've always know that they did awesome things for sick and injured children and their families, but I really had no idea the scope of their awesomeness. It had been a long time since I'd actually seen my friend, but i followed his family's trials and tribulations vicariously through his Facebook page. I felt helpless. It's horrible to watch something unfold from afar and know that you can't do anything. All I wanted to do was give them hugs, but I also wanted to respect their space and all that they were dealing with. A horrible position for someone like me who likes to control things that are out of control and find solutions to problems as they present themselves.

So, I applied to be on the Children's Hospital "Miles for Miracles" Team in September. I had phone interviews with people from the team over the next few weeks. On October 18, I officially went back to work (also the day that Brenya died). I went to the funeral a few days later. I was already very emotional because I hadn't seen my friend in far too long, and now I was seeing him again under such unimaginably horrible circumstances. I was filled with angst as I waited in the parking lot of the funeral home for my wife to meet me there (I went straight from work). While I was waiting, a representative from the Miles for Miracles Team called to tell me that out of over 500 applicants, I'd been selected as one of the 100 members of the team.

So, as you can see, a whole confluence of events led me to where I am today on this journey. I don't believe in coincidences, so I feel that there must be greater forces at work here and I am somehow meant to do this. I draw from all of this as MY inspiration. If I can serve as inspiration to others along the way, then that's just a wonderful side effect of it all...

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