Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, October 01, 2007

Come Run With Me

In the early 1930s a man by the name of Peter Strudwick was born in what was quickly becoming known as Deutsches Reich ("German Reich.") During her pregnancy Peter’s mother contracted Rubella. As a result, Peter was born with legs that ended in stumps just past the ankles, a left arm that only had one thumb and a finger, and a right arm ending at the wrist. Doctors advised that Peter be quickly and quietly killed since he could never have a “normal” life. Fortunately his mother told them where they could put their advice and quickly moved to America.

Before I continue with Peter’s story, I’d like to ask you to personally consider what a man like Peter could accomplish in life. When I ask this question, the answer I get most often is, “Anything he wanted.” That’s the easy pat answer. But do you really believe that? Could he accomplish anything? Could he write a book? Could he be the head of a business? Could he inspire people around the world?

You probably answered yes to all of the questions. But now let’s cut to the heart of the matter. Could he learn to walk? Probably. Could he walk around the block? Maybe. Could he walk a mile? Could he run? Could he run three miles? You see there is a point where you have to agree that while Peter could do many things, there are some things that would just not be within his reach. Like all of us, Peter had certain limitations placed on him from birth; points beyond which he could not go—not through his own fault, but because of how he was born.

But what if I told you Peter didn’t realize he had those limitations? He didn’t understand that a man with no feet can’t run. What if I told you that not only did he run, but that he ran marathons? And not just any marathons, but the toughest of all marathons: Pike’s Peak, climbing more than 8,000 feet over thirteen miles—past 12,000 feet in elevation, where trees can’t grow—and then back down. Oh, and by the way, he did it four times.

Now before you think that Peter used some kind of special prosthetics, let me point out that Peter began running the Pike’s Peak back in 1971 wearing a pair of homemade running shoes that were basically leather cylinders with a rubber base on the bottom. Peter says that to understand what it is like for him to walk, you need to create the coffee can stilts you used as kids and try walking around with those. He has nothing to leverage his steps with. At one point during the second half of the grueling race, he got a small piece of rock inside his boot. When it began cutting into the stump of his leg, he finally stopped to untie his shoe. Except his finger and thumb were so numb he couldn’t get the laces undone, so he finished the run with the rock cutting into his foot.

Peter Strudwick is one of my heroes. Not just because he is a stud—which he is. But because he understands that it’s not enough to have a dream, you have to be willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to make your dream come true.

Chapter 3 of his book, “Come Run With Me,” which is basically a diary of his training for the 1972 Pikes Peak Marathon, starts like this: “The man who will make the most progress is the man who is willing to pay the biggest price. In racing, as in life, good genes help, but they only get you just so far. Rich parents are handy too, but they can only buy you so much. Beyond that point, every improvement carries a price tag, and in distance running, it’s counted in miles of training. You pay in advance for speed and endurance.”

A little while back, I had the chance to meet a kid who wants to be a writer. He told me that he reads three to four books a week and has written a lot of fan fiction to very good reviews on the internet. I got the impression he might take a lot of flack for how much time he spends writing and reading. He may not be as socially outgoing as some other kids. But I couldn’t help thinking that if he sticks with it, he might be the next Stephen King, or JK Rowling, and Terry Brooks. He has a dream and he is working for it at a time when many guys his age are just happy to have a date for Friday night.

I only hope that as I reach for my dreams I can have the same grit and determination as Peter Strudwick and that I can have the same vision and commitment as the future Terry Brooks I met. I hope I can press forward and endure to the end despite—or perhaps even because of—whatever obstacles are placed in my path. I hope I can climb to the point where even the trees dare not grow. But I don't want to do it alone. Come run with me.


At 10/01/2007 4:07 PM, Blogger Josi said...

Wow--That's an amazing story. What strikes me is that the doctors said he wouldn't have a normal life. They were right--but when you hear things like this you wonder, who wants normal?

At 10/01/2007 4:58 PM, Blogger G. Parker said...

Wow...what an inspiration! People like that are so amazing.

At 10/01/2007 5:46 PM, Anonymous marlene said...

Very impressive.

I think you brought out a very significant point in your last paragraph when you inferred that maybe it is because of, not despite of obstacles or handicaps you hope to climb.

I believe there are important concepts we find about ourselves only as we learn how to overcome problems. I believe there is an actual, sequential process we discover and hopefully learn to use as we learn how to deal with and solve problems, and part of that process improves our self awareness and self assurance. We begin to look at things differently, our abilities in all areas of life are expanded and our whole world is enlarged.

I started reading Six LDS Writers after seeing Kerry's personal blog site and a blog about her health issues. I'm sure that some of her wisdom and the deep caring she shows in her writing comes from those experiences. We may not know where some of our other favorite authors' understandings come from, but I'd be surprised if it were not from those kind of difficult things.

It is hard not to be afraid of difficulties and to embrace them, but I believe that's where some of our best literature will come from.
(And on the same premise, I kind of hope I don't have to be the one to write it!)

At 10/02/2007 1:31 AM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...

What an incredible story! With enough determination, anything is possible.

At 10/02/2007 1:13 PM, Blogger Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Thank you for this very inspiring post, Jeff. Count me in. We'll run that path together.

At 10/02/2007 1:35 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

This post just goes to show that we should never judge another's abilities, and we should never count ourselves out. We never know what can be accomplished until we try.

Thanks for this, Jeff.

At 10/02/2007 5:52 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Talk about inspiring. It sort of gives the rest of us no excuse!

At 10/02/2007 9:47 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

I'm lacing my shoes up right now.

At 12/02/2009 1:38 AM, Blogger Diamond-X said...

Pete Strudwick is my father. He does have an amazing will and in his day could accomplish anything he put his mind to. Thanks for the kind words.

At 5/04/2010 9:43 AM, Blogger Christos said...

Great story!! Thank you for this!

At 1/18/2012 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete Strudwick was my 7th & 8th grade Algebra teacher and he has always been one of my greatest heroes in life. In his day he was an excellent teacher and encourager and an amazing storyteller...100% lives what he believes. I went to college and became of teacher because of his mentoring. Wherever you are, Mr. Strudwick, THANK YOU and God bless you!


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