There was something else happening while I was away in Poland last week. Something sad. A man called Ted Szalay died in Ohio. This is probably news to you. You’re probably wondering who Ted Szalay is and why you should have heard about his passing.
Well, to be honest you shouldn’t. Ted wasn’t famous. But as well as a husband and a father, a friend, a colleague, Ted was a marathoner. A Disney marathoner to be precise. And a member of the WISH Team running and walking group.
After his initial heart attack this group banded together in a way I’d never seen before. For days while he and his doctor’s fought, every single Facebook post on my timeline was a picture of Ted, a thought of Ted, or a Team Ted logo.
All I could think of, as disrespectful as it might sound, was that last scene in Elf where if everyone believes, Santa’s sleigh flies. That scene always makes me cry as it’s so much about hope and the power of belief . I’m not religious, I don’t have a God I can pray to, but I believe in the power of hope and love and wishing. And I so much wanted that to happen here. So many people loved this man. So many people cared about someone they would never probably have met if it wasn’t for the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, mile after mile after mile. And to me that was incredible. That a hobby, a sport, could bring together people from around the world. That it could join so many people in one thought and one belief and one hope for someone who, so many people knew only because one day he laced up his trainers and started to move.
Sadly, it seems Elf is a fairytale and Ted didn’t make it, but now the WISH team have started a new idea and it’s one that I think is lovely and truly honours a man who took his race medals in to his cardiologist to show him how far he’d come. So, I want to tell you about it (with the permission of Ted’s wife Lily).
They’re running Ted Miles. From now on every last mile in every event they run will be dedicated to this man they loved and respected and they’ll think of him as they run it. And maybe it’s something all of us runners, walkers, cyclists, swimmers should take to our hearts too. Running – especially long distance running – is often thought of a solo, perhaps selfish, sport. It’s not a team game, there’s no-one to beat but yourself and if you’re training for an event like a marathon it has to come first above friends, family, even work – but if you meet the right group of running buddies, you’ve got buddies for life. The WISH team prove it, The Rat Race in Auckland prove it, if you’ve got your group – you know it’s true as well.
So, next time you head out – especially if you don’t really want to go – think about who you can run for that day. Maybe you want to run for Ted. More likely there’s someone else in your life that you can dedicate your mile too. It doesn’t need to be the last mile in an event – it could be the mile that makes you feel like you’re flying that day and you realise it’s great to be alive – or the one that makes you question why on earth you’re out there again in the rain with your blister. Embracing the fact that yes, sometimes exercise sucks but hey, we’re healthy enough to do it. Use that time to honour yourself, and those who have passed. Life’s great – let’s live it more.