Monday, July 4, 2016


"Nobody knows how much better I'm going to get.
So ask me how much better I got"
- Michael Ring

I've been watching the Olympic trials on TV this week. It got me dreaming about being an Olympian. I came close in 1996. Not close to being an Olympian, but close to Olympians. In the spring before the Atlanta Olympics the torch was making a publicity tour across North America on its way to its home at the Olympic Stadium. I stumbled across its root in a local newspaper and saw that the flame would be spending a night in Rockefeller Center and then during a live ceremony on the today show would travel down Broadway to the Staten Island ferry. At the time, I worked a block from Broadway in Greenwich Village and didn't really have to be at work until 11 AM. So I woke up early and took the train to the Today Show set. In a corny kind of ceremony they transferred the flame to some torches and some minor celebrities got to take turns jogging with the downtown. I jogged alongside keeping enough distance from the flame so that it's security staff didn't think I was a strange threat. I got to work all sweaty from jogging in the fog but people said I had a glow to me. I guess, as an atheist, I came as close as I ever would get to something that was holy to me. Kind of like Moses in the myth about the Commandments.

I would be just outside the frame of this photograph

In 2004, some of the trials in cycling for the Paralympics were held in Prospect Park. I got to run multiple loops of the park while some pretty badass disabled athletes were going for glory. Some cyclists who were vision impaired were teamed up on a tandem bike with someone who could see better. There were also some athletes with balance problems who were racing tricycles around the park. So yesterday, on a crazy lark I looked at the internets to see what it would take it to become a Paralympian. You all

There are basically two reasons why I will not become a Paralympian. First, the disability criteria are quite specific. I would have to have a lack of legs, not just a lack of motor work nerves going to the feet. But basically the rest of me would have to be Olympic material. That's not me, nor is it a goal. The parts of me that work are just trying to be mediocre again.

But last Wednesday, I went back to physical therapy. They knew my goal was that I wanted to get rid of my ankle foot orthotics. They have helped me walk, walk further and faster than most of the tourists taking up space and time square. But they don't let me run, they keep my toes from dragging but they also keep me from pushing off my toes on each step. So my new physical therapist put me on a treadmill. Slight incline comfortable walking speed. Two minutes on one minute rest. After seven repetitions of that he had me take off the orthotics to see what it was like to walk without them. I felt great and I loved what he said to me, to paraphrase"I don't want to jinx anything, but those orthotics don't really improve your walking very much. We'll get some specialists in here, we might build you new ones or maybe wean you off of them."

That Sunday, I participated in the Hope and Possibilities Achilles 4 mile race in Central Park. I was really looking forward to it, and it totally lived up to my expectations. It wasn't just any 4 mile race, it was a 4 mile race with so many of my new friends in the Achilles running club and I got so mixed up with my old friends, that old world of a gigantic roadrunners club race. I didn't realize I misread my corral assignment and started in the middle of the pack instead of the back. I forgot how much I missed being in that crowd of runners waiting for that race to start. All that nervous energy. Small talk with strangers. But we all have one thing in common, we're here to run. We are part of the herd.

It was great to be back in Central Park for a race. It was so easy to move at my new race pace for 4 miles. My pace was almost 2 minutes per mile faster than when I ran the same distance in February. And this time when I finished I had no problem walking another 2 or 3 miles to where we had brunch. But my fast walking pace is still over 20 minutes per mile.

OK, last week my physical therapist said maybe I can be weaned off the orthotics. Last Sunday I walked over 8 miles and felt they were only slowing me down. So, Monday, instead of taking the orthotics out when I got to the gym I figured I'd see what would happen if I didn't put them in it all. I walked out of the house around the corner got on a city bus walk down the block to the gym and reversed it to go home. No problem. Then Monday night I had a meeting about half a mile away. Just walk there no clippety clop. Tuesday I did it again. To the bus to the gym, then walk all around the neighborhood. Yeah, Sunday June 26th was the last day I wore the orthotics. Enough is enough with those orthotics this slowing me down. I'm not weaning off them. I never was a wiener

Here I am walking to our finish in last week's Achilles Hope and Possibilities 4 Miler. I walked that in 20:34  per mile. Today, I took off my orthotics and alternating running and walking a minute at a time and a 5K race. My pace was almost 22 minutes per mile. This is not gonna make me put my orthotics back in, it's going to make me go back to physical therapy and have them teach me how to run again.

Below, is a short video of me finishing a 2 1/2 mile run/walk. On one hand I can't put into words how good it feels to run without the orthotics on the other hand my form has a lot of room for improvement. Thanks Jay Cee Elle for that video

Also, I'd like to make a little list of things that I could not do two years ago that I can do now.  Some of them require some contraptions that I've goten from occupational therapists and some require some contortions that I've learned from occupational therapists.

  • I can eat food with my hands, or a fork or spoon.
  • I can shave with an electric razor, wash my hands and face and brush my teeth.
  • I can go into a pizzeria, order a slice, pay for it and eat it.(I have learned to appreciate the square slices)
  • I can swipe a MetroCard and get on the subway or bus.
  • I can using urinal.
  • On July 4, 2016 for the first time in two years one month and 28 days I took off my sweaty cloths, took a shower, and put on clean clothes all by my effing self.
  • I have no trouble getting out of a car and can handle some seatbelts.
  • With the new contraption I just got, I can cut my own fingernails.
  • I have one more big goal and then I'll be celebrating my own personal Independence Day

If you've been reading this far I have to ask you a question. After I finished my first marathon in four 4 and 11 minutes I read somewhere that four hours divides the runners from the joggers. I took this a little seriously and it took me seven years and a handful of medical tents to finish my fastest marathon ever in 3 hours and 58 minutes. I was then 36 years old and decided that my new focus would be to maintain my health and break for hours again when I was over 60 years old so I can qualify for Boston. That worked for 16 years. I was keeping fit and running two marathons a year and not having a problem doing one of them in for a half hours. I never really thought it was that important to run Boston, I just wanted to meet that qualifying standard. Now I accept that that's not can happen. So here's the question... I can probably gain entry into the Boston Marathon as an Achilles Athlete. Should I?


  1. Michael, I am so excited and thrilled to read about what you are able to do! Congratulations for all you have accomplished. You are a great role model, even for those of us older than you. Keep on doing what you're doing!!

    Love, Aunt Caroline

  2. Absolutely yes, you should enter as an Achilles Athlete. I judge my new personal record runs not by my old younger times but by "modern personal records" since I dislike the term "masters" for older runners. You should judge your Boston entry by how you are now (but getting better and better!) and there will be no asterisk for your entry or finish time.


You do not have to be nice!


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