father, husband, runner (and brother extraordinaire)
Matt's Story – The First 200 Miles
It was cold – just a few face-numbing degrees above freezing. It was dark, with only a couple blurry stars shining fitfully overhead - the sun wouldn’t rise for another 2 hours. And it was lonely, my only companions the slightly tinny but still gritty voice of John Kay pumping over my earbuds, and a rattle-trap station wagon tossing papers onto people’s lawns. Yet here I was, a balding, paunchy, soon-to-be 50-year-old, running up and down the streets of my suburban St. Louis neighborhood, as Mr. Kay so ironically put it, looking for adventure and whatever comes my way.
What could have induced me to crawl out of my warm bed at 4:30 in the morning, leaving my wife and kids sleeping soundly behind me, to run my now 200th mile since September 23rd? And what makes me think I could run 800 more, between now and next September?
The source of my motivation lies nowhere close by, but in a house a thousand miles away as the crow flies, in Middleborough, Massachusetts. And ‘lies’ is almost certainly not true, since my sister Mollie Lombardi never sits still. Despite her diagnosis five years ago this September of early-onset Parkinson’s disease, she’s since founded a successful HR consulting firm, flown tens of thousands of miles worldwide visiting clients, and produced reams of research at the cutting edge of her profession. She’s been to dozens of doctors’ visits, tried a hypochondriacal septuagenarian’s suitcase full of pills, and pushed her balky body and misfiring neurons through a gauntlet of physical and emotional challenges that would have left any sane mortal ready to phone it in, if not flat out hang it up.
What would you do if, at the age of 36, your doctor told you the faintly ludicrous news that the strangely stiff joints and admittedly unnerving shake your hands had developed lately was Parkinson’s disease? How would you react, if she then told you that you had years – decades – ahead of you, full of shuffling steps, frustrating stares from onlookers, and maddening flares of improvement followed by weeks when nothing in your body works quite the way it should? When might you give in to self-pity, or depression, or fear, knowing that right now might be as good as it gets?
Speaking for myself, I have no earthly idea. But I do know what my sister Mollie did. She cried, and she laughed, and she said, ‘screw it, I’m not done yet.’ And it’s for damn sure that even now, she’s only just getting started. On September 23rd, 2018, Mollie pledged to walk a mile a day for 365 straight days. Not so bad, you say? Try it after having someone randomly chain your feet to the bedpost every third day or so, or with a hobble on your legs that only lets you move backwards. Torture you say? Someone with Parkinson’s calls it Wednesday.
So why am I telling you all this? Just to make you feel bad and donate some money? No, and yes. No, I don’t want to make you feel bad - but I do want to make you feel something, and I do want you to think. What might you be willing to do if someone you loved faced a challenge like Parkinson’s? How motivated might you be to do something about it? Run a thousand miles, maybe?
That’s my plan anyway. I started two months ago with little fanfare - I figure, tell someone you’re running 1000 miles and they’ll probably say, I’ll believe it when I see it. But I’ve made a 20% down payment already, and I’m only asking you to trust me on the next 800. But I promise you, as I run my thousandth mile next September, Mollie will be there to meet me - before hopping a flight to her next big thing.
Postscript: Matt Reding is a husband, dad, and sometime half-marathoner who, over the course of a year, is running the 1000-mile distance from his home near the Gateway City of St. Louis, Missouri to his sister Mollie’s adopted hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. If you’d like to support Matt’s vision to raise $10,000 for Parkinson’s disease research, in partnership with HR Gives Back and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, you can donate here: https://tinyurl.com/MilesWithMollie. Follow Matt’s progress on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #GatewayToTheCure and #MilesWithMollie.