When I started riding a bike a couple of years ago, I didn't think my involvement would ever be more serious than the occasional short ride. But as I built strength, my friends encouraged me to step up my training and try some longer trips, The first one to come along was a 150-mile trek, the MS-150, an annual event that raises money to fight multiple sclerosis.
When I registered, the idea seemed terrific - support a worthy cause while going for the distance - and I trained with enthusiasm. But as the time for the ride approached, my self-doubts gained ground over my endurance. I still wanted to raise money for the charity, but I didn't really want to bike all those miles for two days straight.
The ride began on a beautiful Sunday morning in the tranquil Georgia countryside, and for the first few hours I felt wonderful. This was just the experience I had imagined, and my spirits were high. But by the end of the day, I felt tired and irritable.
If the body is connected to the mind, here was proof in action. Every excuse my brain pushed out seemed to travel right down to my legs. "I can't handle this," became a leg cramp, and "everyone else is a better rider" translated into shortness of breath. I was sure I'd have to quit.
As I topped the crest of a hill, the magnificent sunset kept me going for a few minutes more. Then in the distance, silhouetted against the bright red sun, I saw a lone rider pedaling very slowly. I noticed that the person looked different in some way, but I couldn't tell why. So I pushed myself to catch up. There she was, peddling along slowly but steadily, with a slight and determined smile on her face - and she had only one leg.
My focus changed in that instant. For a whole day I'd been doubting my body. But now I knew - it wasn't the body, but the will that would help me reach my goal.
It rained all the second day. I never saw the one-legged biker again, but I pushed on without complaining, knowing she was out there with me somewhere. And at the end of the day, still feeling strong, I completed the 150th mile.
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