Before I get into the meat of this entry, I want to point out two things. First, I created a new page (4 Million Steps) in the blog. I am going to use this to post, word for word, Tommy Neeson’s updates from the road.
Second, since Mike is now in house, he wants to join the blogging fun. While I continue to focus on the trials and tribulations of growing Atayne, he will take a lighter approach. I invite you to check out his blog, Polka Dot Shorts. Just don’t forget about me!
Now on with the show…
This past Saturday, Mike, Paige (a.k.a. Paige T, a frequent commenter here), Andrew (one of Atayne’s newest friends), and I arrived at the Ronald McDonald House in Falls Church, VA at 8:30am to meet Tommy and start the day’s journey to Dale City. This was just another day of running (Day 24 to be exact) for Tommy. But for us, it turned out to be an experience we will not soon forget.
For those of you that have not had the pleasure to meet Tommy, he looks like a runner. He is on the short side (sorry Tommy! but then again most people are shorter than me), slim, and has a near perfect running stride. To virtually meet Tommy, check out the video he just posted to his website. I am not going to detail every step (about 39,000) of our run, but I will share a few highlights.
Before we started, I was adamant that Tommy would not push his jog stroller of stuff for one step on this day. He had plenty more days of stroller pushing ahead of him, and a day off was well deserved. I decided I would take the reins to start. Pushing a jog stroller may seem easy, but let me tell you it is not. The thing is loaded with 75 days worth of Tommy’s gear and supplies – shoes, shorts, shirts (6 from Atayne!), towels, gel packs, water, a camera, etc. Bottom-line: it is heavy, especially when running up the rolling hills of Northern Virginia.
I pushed the stroller about 10 miles, while Andrew and Mike both did around 6. One of us could have pushed it the whole way, but we all wanted to experience what Tommy does every day. Our analysis: it is tough! (To you parents, it may be obvious that none of us are fathers or we might have experienced this to a degree prior to Saturday.) Check out some of the action. I apologize for the low quality footage. Taking video while running is apparently an acquired skill.
Most of us enjoy the luxury of running on sidewalks or running paths. Tommy faces new challenges on a daily basis. Creating a running route in an unfamiliar area using Google Maps is not the easiest thing. You never know what conditions you will encounter. On this day we found ourselves running on Route 1, against speeding traffic with no shoulder. Not the smartest thing to do, but we did not have much of a choice. Yet, this is something that Tommy is facing nearly every day on his journey of 4 Million Steps — all while pushing an overweight stroller that should have power steering.
I do not want to create the impression this was a miserable experience. It was a blast, and I would do it again in a second.
At one point in the run, we stopped in front of a strip mall of stores because Tommy had to adjust the tape on his nipples. (Apparently he is a chronic nipple chafer.) While stopped, a man approached and asked where we were headed. (It was more than just academic interest: this gentleman was the track coach at a high school in Springfield, VA.) Tommy told the story, and the coach asked if he could write him a check on the spot. I am not sure how much he gave, but I was impressed by this man’s spontaneous generosity. Tommy said this was the 22nd time this had happened!
Why did I feel the need to write about Tommy again in my blog? I think part of it is because Tommy’s journey is harder than I ever imagined. He is not just running 30 miles a day, something a very small percentage of people could actually do. He is doing it without a support vehicle and only a jog stroller. And he is doing it in the face of frequent bad roads, no shoulders, and unhappy drivers.
A part of me left Tommy wondering, “Why the 4 Million Steps journey?” Not that volunteering is always a selfish act, but he has nothing to gain. He lost his daughter. So why is he doing it? I guess it comes down to my parting quote on my last blog, from my favorite author:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~Dr. Seuss.
Tommy cares an awful lot. I think he wants to just make things better for the next family that has to deal with what his family had to face. It’s just that simple.
Without knowing it, Tommy found a way to inspire me to do even more good for the environment and society through Atayne and my personal life (so please stay tuned). And I hope he inspires you to do something that might push you out of your comfort zone, all for the joy of knowing you made a difference.
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James