How would you move if you dedicated your life to humanity, to peace, to become more than you can possible fathom? How would you act? How would you be in the world?
Monday, April 20th, 2015
This morning at 8:50am, Maickel Melamed began his final World Marathon: Boston. He was in the first wave to start the marathon and he was the last man to run the finish line with a time of 20hr 07min, thunder-and-lightning sky and all.
Maickel was here to finish his goal of completing the 5 World Marathons in 4 years, and he did it. Or as he often puts things, we did it as a team. Without the team he couldn’t have possibly done it. He is always aware of the presence, the effort and the supportive energy of the team, the people that come in person or in their intentions to be with him—especially in circumstances where our right brain might take over and would say: “there is no way, it is crazy to think you can.”
“If you dream of it, make it happen.” ~ Maickel Melamed
It is crazy to think that anyone can do something that feels at the time so big, so out of our reach, so unattainable, too much of a challenge.
Willing yourself to complete 5 marathons is a goal so big for anyone, a goal so far out of reach, a goal so far on the other side of sanity. Why? Why would you push yourself to be in such distress in such challenging situations? Why would you want to crack your heart open? Why would you want to dive to the edge of your despair?
Maickel does the Marathons to raise awareness. That is his purpose. No fame, no greed, no desire for ego based greatness but more so a deep desire for the greatness of sharing the message that is at the core of his being, at the core of everything he does and created.
The message is this:
The human life is to be cherished, valued and respected. Humanity must come first; peace and a deep respect for all life are the foundation from where we can create what seems unthinkable now. Our own individuality is key to the process, and exploring our potential has the power to transform the world we live in.
Maickel’s journey has been one of many struggles and challenges. He was born in Caracas, Venezuela with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, depriving him of oxygen. The damage to his nervous system led doctors to eventually diagnose him with myopathy (a rare muscular disorder).
He was not supposed to live a week, he was not supposed to live a month, he was not supposed to walk, he was not supposed to talk. He was not supposed to climb a mountain, yet he summited Pico Bolivar, the tallest mountain in the Venezuelan Andes. He was not supposed to do so many things, but he has done them all and turned every ‘no’ into a ‘yes’, into a journey through the self out into the world.
Boston is dear to him because it is the city where he spent a lot of his childhood at the Boston Children’s Hospital, experimenting with different operations and apparatus to give him a chance at life and the freedom of mobility. It has not been easy for Maickel, but that has not stopped him from creating his own freedom and seeking greater mobility than what his physical body is able to give him at this time.
“Don’t tell me no, show me how.” ~ Maickel Melamed
So as life would have it, here we are in Boston to run his last World Marathon. This race falls a week short of Maickel’s 40th birthday, a week before he thinks again of that near-fatal day that gave him life—the day that gave him this life. It is a week before he does his yearly recalibration of his heart compass, and he’s now attempting to complete his last of 5 World Marathons.
Maickel ran his first World Marathon in New York in 2012. He went on to run the Berlin Marathon in 2013, the Chicago Marathon in 2013, the Tokyo Marathon in 2014, and on Monday April 20th, 2015 he ran Boston.
For myself, Maickel embodies a prayer for peace and humanity. He helps me to think deeply about the world and my own purpose. His life has become an inspiration of how I can use my life to activate my own potential and how I can help others do the same. He makes me think of my choices, my actions, my thoughts, my interactions, my engagement with the world. He makes me question myself—how do I move? How do I act? How am I in this world, right now? How do I desire to engage with the world using purpose as the water that grows the seed of potential within myself?
The Boston Marathon could not have been anything else other than what it was: an extremely challenging Marathon. Not only is the terrain difficult, but we went in knowing that it would take over 14 hours to accomplish. In addition, Maickel’s body was feeling the stress and the impact of the last 6 years of training. Before we started, we heard the news of 50% chance of rain in the morning and 100% chance of rain in the afternoon.
We began this Marathon the way we had begun all others: with a prayer for peace and a prayer to connect with the intention behind running this Marathon. We did this as a reminder, so we could bring the intention back into our hearts when times got tough and there were still hours between our group and the finish line.
The night before we had set the altar with the Venezuelan Flag, Maickel’s mala beads, his necklaces, his shoes, his marathon number, and this time, a little bag of Earth given to him by Boston Red Socks player Pablo Sandoval at Fenway Park.
We started our journey at 5:00am on marathon day. At 8:45am Maickel got set up at the starting line. The anticipation was too great. The heart was beating a little faster, all too surreal, all too unbelievable. Somewhere in that time we heard the words “You have the privilege to be starting the Marathon”. It was 8:50 and the race began.
Following winding forested roads we made our way through the first couple of kilometers one by one and were cheered on by people with friendly faces and big hearts. Their words of encouragement to all the runners are still ringing within me. To see their faces light up as they begun to understand what Maickel was doing was priceless. To hear their cheers of encouragement, joy and support gave him and all of us a sense of belonging, a sense that our community and our families, although far away, were right here with us.
The waves of runners passing us were also an incredible source of energy, strength, inspiration, motivation and support. A few fellow runners would yell “Go Maickel!” as they passed—they knew him from running other Marathons throughout the past 5 years.
Most had no idea of what he was up to, though. They smiled as they realized it, shook their heads in disbelief, gave him thumbs up, shared words of inspiration and most importantly gave him the space that he needed to run his marathon without hesitation.
The road was wet from the early rain, and not long after we started a light drizzle started to come down on us. The road became slippery, the umbrellas came out and the garbage bags to be used as extra raincoats found their way onto our already wet bodies.
The up hills started, the down hills followed. The beautiful towns of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham and Natick came and went. The rain started to get heavier and the wind picked up yet we fought back. The umbrellas protected Maickel from the rain and the wind and the tough conditions we were facing only made our resolve intensify. Maickel had found his rhythm with the assistance of Federico (Trainer), Oscar (Physiotherapist) and Perla (Somos Possibles Director), better known as the nucleus of his support group. He knew the team was doing everything possible to protect him, keep him safe, keep him in the race and get him to cross the finish line.
The rain continued for 19 of the 20 hours. As it rained, poured, became a light drizzle, it brought about a rhythm to the day, almost like a mantra, where although we were soaked and water was coming out of our shoes as we walked, we surrendered. Though we knew it was raining, we didn’t feel the rain. The sites came and went, and while I don’t remember much of what we saw I do remember the people that started arriving to follow Maickel. On the 27Km, a crowd of Venezuelan people joined us for what would be the source of Maickel’s strength to finish this Marathon.
Their cheers, enthusiasm, joy and determination for Maickel kept us moving, giving us much needed confidence after long hours on the road.
Boston and the towns along the Marathon route were graceful and kind to Maickel. He was allowed to run his race on the road, for going up and down sidewalks is extremely taxing on him. Every so often a police car would pull behind us to inquire what was going on. Why were we slowing traffic down and why were we on the road? Why the crowd of people, the cheers and the slow van blinking lights following the crowd?
As soon as we would tell them he was the last runner of the marathon, their faces of awe and respect would light up. They would kindly ask us to move closer to the side of the road, to be mindful and to carry on. They would see him with his Marathon number and shake their heads in disbelief.
Word got around and neighbors came out to the streets as we were passing by. Several news agencies came out on the road with us and as Maickel entered the city of Boston he was given an official police vest by a Boston officer who escorted us to the finish line.
Now it was official: Maickel had earned the road, the full width of it.
With lights flashing, and the eco of the national songs of our Venezuela still in the air, Maickel pushed hard, a few steps at a time. He was exhausted—he knew it, we knew it, the crowd knew it. But not one of us at any point accepted it. It would take every ounce of effort, every ounce of belief, every ounce of determination to get to the finish line.
We knew before we started that it was going to be hard. We were in the battle at that point of were heaven and hell meet. We were battling our demons, our limited beliefs, our ego, our hope for our country Venezuela and our people. We were battling our false belief that perhaps exhaustion had taken the best of him and the best of us.
As we approached the last three hundred meters of the race, the skies gave it all to us and the storm came down the hardest, raining like I have never experienced rain. The thunder and the lightening started, the crowd got bigger, the cheers got louder and the intensity of the moment built up. We could feel the electricity in the air, we could feel everyone’s anticipation, excitement, enthusiasm, and just like in other Marathons, Maickel came fully back into his body, picked up the pace and found a new rhythm with Oscar, Federico and Perla counting his steps.
The crowd followed and echoed the counting loud and clear for the world to hear. One, two, three, four, five—all the way to forty-six. Than he would collapse back into Oscar for a few seconds of rest. Then again: one, two, three, four, five—forty-six.
No umbrella could keep Maickel protected from the wind and the rain anymore. No exhaustion, no fears, no limited beliefs could now keep Maickel from crossing the finish line. He was rising above his limited beliefs of his abilities, pushing through and going beyond them to where he had not run before: 5 World Marathons.
At 4:57am Maickel crossed the finish line. This time around the whole world was waiting for him. The lights were on, the cameras were rolling and he got his chance to deliver his message of peace and personal evolution for the betterment of humanity. The spotlight was on him, on the strength of his spirit to push above and beyond all adversity to live, to celebrate life and to light up the spark in us so that we too can make of our lives a prayer for peace. His example helps us to begin and continue to evolve ourselves alive and carry our very own potential out into the world.
Because of Maickel’s determination and journey, I have found within me a renewed sense of inspiration and a stronger foundation from where my commitment to self, to life, to humanity stems from. But the question remains: how would you move if you dedicated your life to humanity, to peace, to become more than you can possible fathom? How would you act? How would you be in the world?
We are all born with and under a specific set of circumstances and challenges. Can we rise above and beyond them to embody our own Prayer for Peace?
Maickel Melamed is a Peace advocate, Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations in Venezuela, founder of Somos Posible (We are Possible), Proyecto Vamos (Project Let’s Go), and Paz con Todo (Full Peace).
Author: Natalie Howard
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photos: Courtesy of Author
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