Service member Terry Hitchcock ran a staggering distance of over 2,000 miles; a marathon a day for 75 consecutive days! His journey would take him from Minneapolis across the country to Atlanta. Even more impressive, he did so only six months after having a heart attack. Not bad for a 57-year old and certainly looked at as a non-runner.
People began calling Hitchcock, “The real-life Forrest Gump“. He ran in spite of freezing rain and unbearable heat, in spite of chest pains and bone fractures that racked his body. He just kept running each day, every day, not stopping until he broke the finish line tape.
Hitchcock began running for his wife, Sue. She was the love of his life and a fervent supporter of his dreams. So, when Sue succumbed to breast cancer and with his children by his side, he dedicated himself to raising awareness, and the elusive dream of finding a cure. Along the way, he showed the world that impossible is possible as long as you don’t give up.
The unforgiving sun punishes a middle age man jogging along a desolate highway. His white beard is a faucet of sweat. The heart monitor around his wrist cries trouble. Terry Hitchcock collapses to the ground, unable to go any farther. He looks back at the road he has traveled.
Terry met Sue White in college. She wasn’t like the other girls. She didn’t wear make-up or high heels. Instead, she biked down hills with no hands and climbed trees for the fun of it. Sue had a way about her; like she was always standing at the top of the Empire State Building.
They were married and had three children: Teri Sue, Chris, and Jason. But in 1984, Sue called Terry at work and asked him to come home. She didn’t hint at the problem but he knew something was wrong. It was breast cancer. In what seems like just a snap of the fingers, Terry lost the person who breathed inspiration into his life. Two days later, he was fired from his high-powered executive job leaving him with three kids to raise and no income.
It’s 1996, twelve years since Sue died. Terry doesn’t recognize the old man in the mirror anymore. You can tell the fire inside is gone. Although he was never an athlete, he used to challenge himself by entering the local 5K every year. He always came in last.
To honor his wife and shine light on breast cancer research, he decides to run again. Not just any run; a two-thousand-mile odyssey from his hometown of St. Paul Minnesota to the Olympic Games in Atlanta Georgia. He knows it’s crazy.
If a 57-year-old man with no athletic ability can run a marathon a day for seventy-five consecutive days, then just imagine what you can do.
There is no book on how to run over 2000 miles. Heavy rain, wind, and bone-chilling cold make it hard to finish each day. And a simple case of blisters could end his mega-marathon early.
Terry grows more and more dejected by the lack of attention to his cause. He doesn’t feel he’s made a difference and the intense physical pain wreaks havoc on his mind. He could easily throw in the towel.
But a note from a child comes at just the right time to lift his spirits. Suddenly, this is more than a run for breast cancer, he’s giving at least one person hope, he knows he can’t stop. Terry’s teenage helpers don’t have the same conviction. Unable to see his vision or unwilling to fight for it, they desert him before the half-way point.
With funds on life support and the summer finally packing a serious punch, Terry must deal with unbearable heat, stress fractures in both ankles and his right knee and a heart condition that could make this a real life or death struggle.
This is more than a story about a man running multiple marathons; it’s about the daily marathons we all run. Maybe you work three jobs just to pay your mortgage. Or you’re battling a life altering disease. Or maybe you’ve just been fighting for your dream so long and it still seems so far away. Terry challenges every one of us to dig deep. When we’re faced with obstacles we all have a choice.
In 2014, leaving from Oceanside California with his running buddy, Steve Knowlton, Terry and Steve headed out to run across the many challenges of the Mohave Desert toward Washington DC to chat with our President for Veterans everywhere. Another impossible dream that came true; two more American heroes doing things for others.
Taking a look back on his unbelievable journey, … Air Force veteran Hitchcock sits on that highway, like a boxer who has been knocked down. He glares at the endless road ahead. He struggles to his feet and takes a step forward.
We can give up or we can keep … pushing life.
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