If I had never met Ken (and his lovely wife Melissa) I would never be able to tell you that Ken is one of the most inspiring men I have met!
While I was in the hospital Ken and his wife sent me the most thoughtful and positive messages anyone could. Not one day went by that he didn't write "Sending positive and healing energy your way".... and somehow I felt it and knew he really meant it!
I asked Ken to be my very first "Inspirational VIP" because he is. His smile is infectious and I had to know where it came from. Someone like this had to have a story and a story he has.
You see, if you saw Ken across the room you would never think he does what he does. Ken is a flight medic...specifically a lieutenant paramedic on Medflight One here in Sw. Florida
He looks like an average Joe, but he really isn't. I swear his heart is made of gold, and his energy is empowering.
Here is a picture of them from their anniversary last Sunday climbing Mount Evans for 7 hrs (left picture)
EVERY week he and/or Melissa runs in a race, a triathlon, bike, or something. The two of them still act like honeymooners and lovebirds even after a year of marriage.(right picture)
So what is Ken's story?
Well, here it is. Written by Ken himself.
He'd love to hear your comments when you are done and so would I :-)
This is Ken's story...
I started running at a very young age about 7 years old. We lived up in the wonderful mountains of Colorado. There really was not much to do. Back then we had only 3 TV channels and we only watched The Wonderful World Disney on Sunday nights and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Wide World of Sports on Saturdays. No video games not even PONG was invented yet. Yes we had to use our imagination and as my mother always said " Go outside and play". When I said there wasn't anything to do she suggested I go run down the dirt road we lived on. So I did. a few hours later I came back home and my mother asked where I ran to. I told her and she about fell on the floor. apparently it was about 7 miles away and a runner was born.
The freedom that I felt running out in nature everyday was amazing to me. Yes there was the occasional bear scare while running, which by the way WILL make you run faster than you thought you could no matter how tired you are and there was the occasional deer or elk that came darting out across the road. The wind on my face, smelling spring then summer in the air, feeling the crackling of the falling aspen leaves and the winters snow crunching underfoot these are the precious memories I have from early on in running. I felt my whole body come to life and found a love that has only grown. I ran all the way through high school and into the military. I became a combat medic and served for 13 years.
This is the first part of my story...how I got started running.
How I fell out of running....
While in the military I took up smoking to this day I still don't understand. Initially I did it because everyone did and it and is was a easy buzz to kill the stress. It quickly became a habit. I could still run with no problem so i figured no harm. I would do my runs and PT tests and light up as soon as I was done. Smoking took over my life. I became addicted to smoking and nicotine so much that I found myself smoking even on the runs... when is the last time you saw that, a runner with a cigarette? I only bought one pack at a time because I always believed that it would be my last pack so didn't want to by a carton. I continued to believe that smoking wouldn't hurt me. You know young and dumb. But the eventual transformation that comes with smoking 2-3 packs a day is I couldn't run like I did anymore, in fact I stopped enjoying it because it became just to hard and over time I stopped running all together. Smoking was to important to me and it became all enveloping in my life.
22 years later while smoking in the shower and trying not to cough the last of my lungs on the floor I decided I had to stop smoking or I was going to die very young. I thought what my young children would do without me and how they would feel. I didn't want them to grow up not knowing the real dad I could be. So I started down the road of trying to quit. I tried the patch which worked well until I stopped the patch then went right out the same day and started again, I tried medicine, no help, I even tried hypnotherapy.. went home and started to smoke right away. How I prayed how am I supposed to ever stop? The addiction was so great nothing else seemed more important to me than smoking. But I couldn't live with the fact that I wouldn't be long for this world if I continued down this road.
My health was rapidly decreasing I was about 190lbs and I coughed until I threw up then continued to smoke. Finally after trying all the different methods of smoking cessation it came down to just quitting. Quitting for the family, quitting for the kids, and quitting for me. Cold turkey no crutch to lean on, just stopped and told myself never ever again. Didn't seem like the best plan but I tried all the others and failed.
I tried to take it minute by minute then day by day and tried to remember what did before I smoked? RUN!
That's right I used to run!
So I put on my shoes and started down the road determined to run or walk at least 2 miles. I did. I ran two miles and walked a bunch of it, but I ran and I remembered what it felt like to really breathe for a purpose other than to smoke. I was on my way to actual recovery. I went through the five stages of grief. First it was denial I couldn't believe I quit and it was gone from my life. It was the biggest part of my life, how could it just be gone now. Then I had the anger stage, angry at myself for ever going down this road. Angry at the tobacco industry blaming everyone and every thing but man I was mad mad mad mad!!!! I didn't even want to be around me during this time I was unbearable. Then I hit the bargaining stage thinking maybe I could just smoke a little or maybe I could figure out a way to do this. But I stuck to my guns and didn't light up. I was depressed for a little bit but running helped me allot. I was so sad I felt like I lost my very best friend. It felt like a real human loss. unexplainable but I missed it like a loss of a loved one. Finally I accepted the fact that smoking was out of my life and I could live without it. In the process of going through these stages that took about 6 months or longer I also learned to run again and enjoyed a smoke free life, stopped coughing constantly and lost 45 pounds. I ran every single day and after a year started to race which was the first time I did as an adult. I didn't even know racing was out there! It was fun and gave me focus to improve and work out.
I started with 5K's then 10K , 20K half marathon and two years after I quit smoking I ran my very first marathon in 3 hours and 45 minutes. It was at Disney in Orlando and I cried like a baby at the finish line I don't even know why but I did it was unexpected. I still get choked up every time I finish the Marathon there. I have done 4 there now and I am signed up to do the Dopey Challenge in January.
After a two years of running and training for my third marathon I unexpectedly had to have surgery for a abdominal hernia. As I was waking up from the surgery the very first thing I asked the doctor how soon I can start running again. He laughed and said to wait and go light in 2 weeks. I ran light for two weeks and then continued to increase. By a month out I still had no real run in me I was frustrated and thought this might be the end of me running hard. I kept to it and continued to try and make up for the marathon that I missed and figured I just want to get through it again. The new habit I developed was at the least more healthy for me. One month from the marathon I was supposed to run with my oldest son, I once again found myself the day before Christmas at the end of a scalpel for a hernia repair of the hernia repair. Apparently not the best patch job initially I had to have the surgery all over again. The pain from this one was more than I can ever remember I didn't even think about running for at least a month. It crossed my mind maybe I should give it up in a effort to " save my body from stress". I didn't ever want to go through another surgery. But after a month a started to run again very easy at first and started to introduce myself to weight training / conditioning to hopefully create a stronger me so I wouldn't fall apart again. combining the two running and strength training seemed to pay off a year after my surgery I ran my first marathon in two years. It was the only race I did all year I had only trained for the marathon. I continued to run but not race I took up biking for fun and rode around on a hybrid bike it was fun but not the same as running.
I raced my fourth marathon this last year at Disney with my son. It was a huge proud moment to see him finish. My son the marathoner finished his first. Proud dad moment, he never even ran track! The two marathons were slow 4:45 and 4:30 but something happened to me this time at the finish line!
I inspired my sweet, love of my life,and wife Melissa (The wife that said she would never run, don't ever ask me to run, I will NEVER RUN!) to run. She saw what it was that I loved so much about running. She saw time and time again what everyone who completed the run experienced. She was moved in ways that are not possible for me to put into words and she began not only to run but inspiring me to run harder and love it even more. She got me racing again. She showed me what I loved about running. A month after the marathon I ran a challenge in Tampa where I ran half marathon and then went and ran a 8K a half hour later. Then we raced Susan Koman 5K and I placed. I couldn't believe I placed. Then we raced another 5K the very next day in the heat of the day and we both placed! The rest as they say is history. Melissa has raced every weekend but one since the inspiration of the Disney Marathon. We have ran them together and on our own but we both are running. We even got the younger kids 10 and 12 running. They both run 5K's on a regular basis now and both have completed there first youth triathlon.
My wish is to show them I could be a better man and father to them has come true for me. Because of running My oldest son ran a marathon, my oldest daughter is now starting to run being inspired by the family running my two youngest are running and thinking about doing more triathlons and think about being healthy. Running has inspired my wonderful wife and she in turn is inspiring others everywhere. We have started doing triathlons and duathlons and look for running challenges.
Running for me is more than any one word or phrase and can wrap up. It has been part of my life almost my whole life it has lifted me from the bottom several times in my life. My youth is gone but because of running I have found the fountain of youthfulness and I have found a way to be a better husband, father and better me.
~ Ken Haberkorn