Paul Gable, Editor of The Shelbyville News
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” - Chinese proverb
Let me preface this column by saying every ounce of my blood, sweat and tears went into this one.
You’ll understand very shortly what I mean.
David Roth is my friend.
He’s also nuts.
Roth, the chairman of the board for Helping Hands For Freedom, a group aimed at helping military families, will walk 3,000 miles across the United States next year to raise funds for the construction of a retreat house. Roth, who is 46-years-old and a veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, will participate in the Route for the Brave (www.routeforthebrave.org), which begins April 28, 2016, in Atlantic City, New Jersey and will travel U.S. 40 all the way to San Francisco.
For a few months, Roth has been on me about coming out and “walking” with him.
As a former college athlete, I have no qualms about admitting that I’ve let myself slip a lot over the last decade. The amount of exercise went way down, while the amount of bad foods and weight went way up. Fine, I’ll bite. Let’s enjoy a “walk.”
I met Roth Sunday morning at the intersection of Carroll Road and U.S. 40 in Cumberland and off we went.
“How much walking have you done?” he quickly asks.
Um, does walking from one end of Greenwood Park Mall to the other with my family after a recent kid’s club event count?
Perhaps, the fact that I showed up with just one bottle of Powerade should have been a sure sign that walking is not something that is in my daily repertoire.
“We’re just walking. That’s all,” Roth says as we embark on our trip.
That would be a phrase that would be repeated often.
So, how far are we going?
“Well, it’s five miles from here until we reach 465. Stop there and I’ll call you a cab or bus or you can walk back,” Roth said with a smile that only the devil would appreciate.
I utter a few words not meant for print under my breath and remember the days of being a member of the Newberry College men’s tennis team when coach Tommy Arnett would try to pound us into submission by running miles in the cemetery. I immediately think, this is a piece of cake.
And for 13 miles, I was right. We breezed through Cumberland, laughed our way through Irvington and all but danced down U.S. 40 into Indianapolis.
And, then it hit, “the reverse stages of grief” as Roth describes it - that moment when you hit the wall and question how much further can you really go.
I immediately realize maybe this wasn’t the greatest of ideas, but, after all, “we’re just walking,” so I push a little further ahead at the expense of my lunch and my legs.
We’re past the Indianapolis Zoo and onto the west side when it hits again - the wall.
I immediately think back to my grandfather who liberated the guys on the Bataan Death March as a member of the 38th Division, and so many other soldiers and the real reason why Roth is doing this walk next year.
“You have to keep moving, whatever the cost, whatever the toll on your body,” I tell myself.
Because “we’re just walking.”
We make it to the Indianapolis International Airport south gate on U.S. 40 and we’re done.
Or should I say I’m done. Roth, who has made this trip four times, looks like he’s ready to continue on U.S. 40 into San Francisco, while I’m just hoping to not collapse on top of the lunch I just left on the pavement of a gas station.
I can no longer keep a pace. For the last three miles, I’m shuffling along, muttering expletives with every step and I’m certain I left a trail of lunch behind us.
But, I finished.
Twenty miles in the books with no preparation on my part to get ready for this. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had walked a mile, much less 20.
So the question remains why?
What is it that makes a man, who was a former college athlete and hasn’t done much physical activity in a decade, subject himself to the most hellacious pain he’s ever endured?
The opportunity to get back in shape for his wife and children?
The opportunity to get out and support a dear friend and an amazing cause that supports those who sacrifice daily?
All of the above.
After years of saying, “I’ll start lifting again,” or “Tomorrow, I’ll begin getting back in shape,” I finally decided that Sunday, Aug. 2, was the day.
Did I envision walking the 20 miles?
No. I honestly thought I’d get in about five and that would be the end, but the little voice inside my head that said, “Do this for your kids and wife” continued to win out when I endured numerous gut checks.
I’m not writing this to brag, but rather to say that it’s never too late to get involved and rededicate your life to health. Roth is right — if nothing else this walk next year and all the training walks will raise awareness of men’s health.
After all, “we’re just walking.”
Paul Gable is the editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Gable on Twitter @PaulGableTSN.