69. Bridge to Life

69. Bridge to Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Bridge
to Life

Shoot for the moon.
Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
 ~Les Brown

I was forty-five years old and weighed 396 pounds. Getting in and out of the car was all the exercise I could manage. I walked around the grocery store leaning heavily on the shopping cart for support. How could this have happened to me?

In high school I excelled at sports. Track was my favorite. On the wall of my office the framed state medal for the 440-yard relay still held a prominent spot. What happened to the person I used to be? I wondered how long a 396-pound woman could expect to live.

I wanted to make a change. Change or die. I was embarrassed and ashamed, but I knew I had to reach out for understanding, encouragement, and support. I called one of my college friends who lived across the state. She hadn’t seen me in decades.

“It doesn’t matter where we’ve been,” said Maggie. “It’s where we’re going.”

“We?”

“I’ve gained weight, too,” she admitted. “And although I’m not as large as you are, my health is deteriorating. It’s now or never. Let’s do this together.”

We regularly checked in with each other. In just a few months, she reported that she’d walked a whole mile. The time it took her didn’t matter. A mile is a mile.

My own progress was not so rapid. The milestones I accomplished were more on the “I made it to the first bench on the board-walk without stopping to rest” variety.

But days and weeks turned into months, and then an entire year had passed. Maggie was able to jog two to three miles a day, and I was now fit enough to quickly walk the same distance.

“Don’t they have some kind of bridge run/walk thing over by you?” she queried one day early that spring.

“The Great Columbia Crossing,” I replied. “It’s held on the second Sunday in October every year. It’s advertised as a 10K event that traverses the Astoria-Megler Bridge. The brochure says it’s a mostly flat run with a ‘challenging incline’ near the end.”

“Challenging incline?”

“It’s almost a quarter mile straight up and over the shipping channel on the Columbia River.”

“Good grief,” she laughed. “I guess we’ll have to start training on hills.”

“You can’t be serious.”

But she was serious. And on the second Sunday in October, after she drove eight hours to join me, I stood beside her as Maggie signed the entry form and received her T-shirt. It was a bittersweet moment. I couldn’t go with her, not even to walk. Although my weight was down to 238, I had developed a painful heel spur and my physical activities were limited to the swimming pool until I could have surgery.

Maggie completed the bridge run in fine time. It was a day of celebration.

But for me, the real celebration came a year later, when I was able to complete the crossing myself, sans bone spur and another 70 pounds. My time wasn’t so great, mostly due to the fact that I’d stopped at the top of the “challenging incline” to have my picture taken in the “Rocky Balboa victory salute.”

I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat in that picture, but if you look closely enough, you’ll also see my tears of joy.

~Jan Bono

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