Well 12 months went fast, didn’t it!
It was this time last year that I was answering a million nervous phone calls responding to an endless stream of anxious text messages and quietly smiling to myself because I knew that Sunday was going to be something beyond special for one very special person.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years and never had access to facebook, then you may not have heard of Donna Campisi. Those of you who have heard of her will know she is pretty damn incredible. Those of you who were at the MCG to see her cross the finish line of the Melbourne Marathon will never forget it.
To give you a quick recap, Donna had a stroke when she was only a little girl. After losing the ability to walk, talk and do the most basic of things, with a lot of hard work she slowly regained the ability to function normally (she hates the word normal) and has gone on the live a wonderful life. The stroke did however effect the right hand side of her body in a way that had left her able to walk with the aid of an ankle support, but unable to run. Couple this with Diabetes and a few other physiological challenges, and you would be very surprised to see her out running a Marathon. But in true Donna style, she did that very thing.
When we started working together, Donna could run only 30 steps before needing to sit down. With an obvious limp and poor balance, the road from here to the finish line at 42.2kms, was going to be a long one. Or at least that is what you would expect, right?
11 months of dedication, determination, tears, laughter, smiling, yelling, swearing, falling down, getting up, falling down again, suffering through the pain, accepting the pain, ignoring the pain and embracing the pain and there she was, standing at the finish with a medal around her neck. I can’t think of many other occasions where I was more proud to be a runner and a coach. Not because I got to help her reach that goal, but because of what she did for every single person that followed her journey and continues to do today. She lit a fire under dozens of people that started their own journey to health and fitness. She lit the way for those who have a similar story to hers and showed them WHAT IS POSSIBLE when one commits to a goal and refuses to give up – at any cost.
Donna Campisi, thank you for being an amazing human and for continuing to do the work you do to support the Royal Children’s Hospital in return for saving your life (more than once) all those years ago. Thank you for sharing your path with me and for being a true friend. Thank you for tripping over three feet from the finishing line, allowing me to help you up and still crossing the line with a huge smile on your face :-). You are WHY I love what I do.
Run long Donna,