The Lucky Ones

About ten miles into my workout on Sunday, I had the urge to slow down and take it easy. It was the first really warm and sunny day of spring and the breeze had morphed into an annoyingly brutal headwind. I was pushing on pace but my heart monitor said I was working a bit harder than expected. I wasn’t feeling it. With Boston just a couple weeks away, taking it down a notch didn’t seem like too bad an idea.

Then something happened. A loose pack of cyclists went by me just as I began to climb a small hill a few miles from home. The riders in the front simply gave me little waves as they switched gears in unison but one lone cyclist who was clearly struggling to hang on to the back of the pack did something different. This cyclist sat up, slowed down to my speed and said, “dude, seeing you working out here is the most inspirational thing I have seen in a long time. You are amazing.”

If you know me well, you are fully aware that hearing words like those is usually enough to get me to climb out of the racer, smack the speaker across the face and curse him or her out into next week without missing a push.

You see…

I hate being called inspirational
I don’t think there’s anything too amazing about exercising
Chatting up someone as he begins a climb after 10 miles at race pace under a hot sun isn’t too smart

My reaction to the comment amazed even me. I thanked the cyclist with my usual, “right on, man, good work to you, too.” Then, rather than mumbling something sarcastic under my breath and secretly wishing that he roll a tire or hit a pothole, I added, “catch those bastards and push the pace.”

He said “thanks,” put his head down, shifted gears and began turning his cranks as if my words ignited a fuse deep in his soul. Just as he crested the hill, focused on his new mission, I heard him call back, “dig deep, my friend, we are the lucky ones.”

At that very moment, I, too, felt something inside come to life. I found a new gear. I think it was because he called me “lucky.”

Is it right to call someone in a wheelchair “lucky?” Most people don’t think so. I happen to think a bit differently.

I am lucky.

You see, a wheelchair, just like a bike, is a vehicle of freedom. Moving it forward under our own power, rolling under the hot sun and feeling the burn are the byproducts of effort, drive, determination and hard work. It is a privilege we earn. The readiness to dig just a bit deeper when the road turns up and the body hints it wants to take it easy is what makes us lucky.

About a mile from the house, I crossed the cyclists again. This time we were heading in opposite directions. You will never guess who was in front of the pack pushing the pace.

And you’ll never guess who else had already decided to kick it up a notch, too. Nice workout.

Luck is something that comes to those who are ready for it.