Sometime during the year 2000 my oldest sister Mary saw a cable TV show where an overweight woman was showing off her recently earned Mickey Mouse shaped marathon medal. She looked like a regular, real person! Not some kind of super athlete like you expect all marathoners to be. That random mystery woman inspired my sister, a lifelong non-athlete, to sign up for the 2001 Walt Disney World half marathon. That decision set her on a course to lose a bunch of weight and to complete 50+ marathons. Watching her transformation had a trickle down effect on me and after I few false starts, I too did a half marathon and then a full marathon and 28 marathons later I still haven't stopped running.
Check us out here after finishing the Disney marathon together back in 2004 in identical Snowman hats. (We knew about Olaf before DISNEY knew about Olaf!)
Back in the late 90s Mary and I took a trip out west to the Grand Canyon we spent most of that trip in the car and walking maybe 500 steps at a time from the car to peek over the edges of some scenic vistas. Since then I've transformed from the kind of person who sits in the car to a woman who carried a 35 pound back to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out again. I've become the kind of person who will take a vacation to ride a mountain bike 70 miles around a national park, who will go night snorkeling in the middle of the ocean, who will hike to remote chalets where the only way to get there is on your own two feet. I have adventures.
Along the way I discovered that the people who run marathons and have adventures are NOT all young, super-fit people. They are people who are excited about life. REAL people who are committed to their own happiness and fitness. Sure, some are skinny and have perfect bodies, but more often than not they are a little bit squishy around the middle, they have aches and pains, they might be in a little over their heads. They might even be....old!
See the woman in the center of this picture in the orange hat? Her name is Sarah and she is almost 80 years old. That's her husband next to her in the green shirt. He actually was 80 -- they were at Glacier National Park celebrating his birthday. We are on the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail in this photo. To even get to this trailhead we had to hike about 8 miles and then we had to go straight up about 500 vertical feet to the overlook. And off of this at an elevation about 7700 feet. Let me say it again: they are 80 years old.
Here's a photo from the end of my 70 mile mountain bike trip at Canyonlands NP. I am in my early 40s and I was the youngest person on this trip. The bravest cyclist on this trip was an overweight woman in her 50s. The lady on the far right? This was her first vacation after her hip replacement! These people are proof that if you want to lead an active and adventurous life you absolutely can do it.
REAL people, REAL adventures. REALLY possible.
Look, not everybody has the genetic gifts to be a super athlete. Not everybody has the luxury of staying fit and perfect for a lifetime. Life happens to people. We fall out of good habits and into bad ones. We get older and slower and maybe a little sad about what we used to be. We start to think that maybe it's too late to change. But it is never too late. These random REAL people I have met over the years prove that getting out there and doing things is always possible. It's never too late. You might not be climbing mountains at 80 but you just might be if you do a little something today to set you on that path. Take a walk, ride a bike, just get out there and be awesome and see what the world has waiting for you.