Experts are idiots.
Well, not all of them. And not all the time, but hear me out. Often experts are so entrenched in their beliefs, thoughts, training and how they know things are, that they make a critical mistake – they shut themselves down to the possibilities of life, of human ingenuity, of creative minds with no limits.
History is loaded with these examples. The four minute mile was impossible. Human beings could not physically run a mile any faster than four minutes and 1.4 seconds. It had taken 32 years to go from 4:14.4 (set in 1913 by American John Paul Jones) to the record of 4:01.4 – set by Gunder Hagg from Sweden, set in 1945. Gunder’s record stood for nine years without anybody changing it. At that time, according to the history books, doctors, trainers, coaches and many others were writing papers about how breaking the four minute mile was impossible. They could explain it through physics, wind forces, muscle response time and a whole host of other things that experts do. Then Roger Bannister ran a 3:59.4 on May 6th, 1954. His record stood for 46 days before John Landy ran a 3:58 flat. Then it was broken again three years later and again and again. In fact, in 1964, a high school kid broke the four minute mile barrier.
Most of my favourite stories begin with ‘impossible’ whether they are movies, books, true stories or fiction, or people I have met. I have heard ‘impossible’ lots myself. When I broke my back in 1984, doctors told me that I would be in a wheelchair by age 40. When I tore all the ligaments in my ankle in 1993, doctors told me I would never run again. Five Ironman triathlons, two World Long Course Triathlon Championships, an Ultraman Triathlon and several marathons later, I am 44 years old and not in a wheelchair by a long shot, thank you very much.
Experts said Theoran Fleury was too short at 5’6″ tall, too small at 180lbs and would never play in the NHL. As we all know, he played over 1,000 games in the NHL from 1989 to 2003, and has won Olympic gold three times.
When Terry Fox lost his leg to cancer in 1977 he was told many things, by many experts. He chose to see what he could still do, instead of what he couldn’t do. By 1979, he started training for the Marathon of Hope – his dream of running across Canada on his artificial leg.
Here’s where we have to stop and realize something; back then – the mere thought of this was preposterous. The artificial leg Terry had was not designed to run on at all. It was clunky, had a leather strap on it and was really designed to hide underneath a pair of pants and ‘pretend to be a real leg’.
After having his leg cut off, then chemotherapy to kill any stray cancer cells in his blood stream, Terry left the hospital, bald and weak, with a dream. He started training in 1979, and could only manage short distances, working up to 1.6kms, while in agony. His dream was to run a marathon a day until he crossed our country. Experts did not approve.
Regardless, he pressed on and started in St John’s Newfoundland on April 12th. He had to deal with crazy weather, detours, hills, rain, sleet, snow, blisters, no money, and a million other things including maintenance on his prosthetic leg – which was absolutely not designed for this. He ran 5,374 kms, all the way to Thunder Bay before he felt the pain in his chest, that was soon diagnosed as lung cancer. It has been said that the cancer that cost Terry his leg, is now fully curable.
I have been running in his honour since Sept. 13th, 1981 when the very first Terry Fox Run was held and I invite you to do the same. Walk, run, ride, jog, blade, stroll, skateboard – whatever, head to www.terryfoxrun.org to find a run site near you. Not only to raise money for cancer research, but just to show the experts that they need to keep an open mind.