cuddle on the couch?” And I was off. When I came back
that afternoon with a trophy (age group award, again), and a
personal record, that little girl was beside herself with joy!
I carefully explained, without downplaying the PR,
that third in my group and the trophy were not exactly
evidence of world-class running. Still, that small trophy
is my most cherished piece of plastic. That PR was
October 2008. Twenty months later, in June 2009,
I survived a debilitating stroke. I was only 42 and
feeling on top of the world, training for a half-Ironman
triathlon. I simply got out of a lake swim one morning
and broke in half.
Doctors called it “spontaneous dissection of the carotid,”
which I took to mean “no good reason, it was just your turn
in this fickle universe.” At first I asked, “Why me?” but
mostly I asked, “When?”
• When will I get ALL better?
• When will I go running again?
• When will I move or feel my left arm or leg, at all?
• When will I be allowed out of this hospital and go take
a pee by myself?
There were no answers and certainly no guarantees.
Becoming completely paralyzed down my left side
and suffering cognitive losses, it took every bit of moxie I
owned to learn to walk again; and after four years of trying,
I got my 5K time down to 2 hours. I also re-learned how to
ride a bike. By 2014, five years after the stroke, I had built
enough stamina to enter a 10K. Limp-walking the whole
way, I finished in 3 hours 35 minutes. I came in under 3
hours in my next two races. My new perspective? Dead last
is better than actually dead.
See Amelia’s TEDxIthacaCollege talk courtesy of tedxtalks.ted.com.
Dead last is