Name: Justin Healey
Hometown: Caribou, ME
Goal: Run a Half-Marathon (13.1 miles)
Started DDPY: August 2017
Done DDPY For: 1 month
My name is Justin Healey and my road to DDPY started 40 years ago… as it has been told to me. It seems I was eager to see the world having been born close to 3 months early and only 2lbs 13oz. I had both lungs collapse, a perforated small intestine, and somehow along the way I also acquired a fungal infection which amazed my Dr’s that I was able to survive it… you have to keep in mind this was the late 1970’s and medical care was not as advanced as it is today. In total, I spent close 3 1/2 months in the hospital before I was allowed to come home.
At 10 months old, my parents noticed that I wasn’t sitting up like other babies, and I couldn’t keep my feet flat on the floor, always wanting to stand up on my toes. It was during this time that I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. There are varying degrees of CP from mild to severe. The CP mainly affects my legs, mobility, and balance as well as some fine motor skill issues with my hands. The left side of my body is the weaker side meaning that when walking or running my right side gets to do all the work.
Since childhood, I have had numerous corrective surgeries to help with my walking and balance. I am no stranger to casts, braces, crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, physical therapy, occupational therapy as they have all been a part of my life at some point or another and have helped to improve me and get me to where I am today.
My awareness of DDP and DDPY started when I saw the documentary “ The Resurrection of Jake The Snake.” Having been an avid wrestling fan during my childhood in the 80’s and early 90’s, and follower of Jake's career I was aware of his struggles outside of the ring. This was my first look at what DDP YOGA was all about. Seeing what it did for Jake combining the power of positivity when you are ready to fully commit and make a change in your life left an impression on me.
I had run a few road races in the past. Mostly they were 5k’s here and there and I did one 10k back in 2011, but nothing serious since then. Rebecca, my fiancé who is an avid runner, suggested that we should do our local Caribou, Maine Half Marathon. We talked it over, I gave it some thought and decided that we would train as much as we could together and run this race! The furthest I had ever run was 7 miles, and of course, the half marathon would be 13.1 miles. I knew that I needed some help.
Enter DDPY! I knew that I needed to give it a shot. After the DVDs arrived I jumped right in. What I was looking for was something that would help with my gait, my balance, and the flexibility in my back, hips and legs. I was not disappointed. I felt comfortable like I could do this, because when I looked at the screen, not only did I have the positivity of Dallas getting into my head, walking me through the exercises, but when I looked to his left and right I saw everyday people. REAL PEOPLE… people that had worked hard, made changes, overcame adversity, and were works in progress... they were very relatable to me. During my workouts I would look at the modifier quite often because if there was an exercise I was having a hard time with I would do the modifications, or as close as I could get. I would grab the chair, and not feel bad about it. I can hear Dallas now… “What Do You Want?” What do I want??? I would think in my head… “I want to run a half marathon in September…that’s what I want!!” Also, he would say “Make the DDPY your own.” A lot of the balance moves I had a hard time with but, not using that as an excuse to stop I would modify and continue on.
One day at a time... one step at a time. As the workouts progressed I found myself being able to make it to the floor easier, hold my balance a little longer, and the moves got easier on my left side. Little by little things were improving. During this time as well, I was trying to run every few days, which I did with Rebecca right by my side step for step. It was great to be able to train with her. Trying to balance everything - work, life, training, and then all of a sudden without warning…BAM!.. the foot blisters came. I had a particularly bad one on my bottom left foot (right in the arch) from running. With some help from a running friend I was eventually able to get back on track with the foot covered in a gel pad and wrapped, but it set me back a few weeks. As things most often do, the time just flew and race day was here with me only ever having done 6 of the 13.1 miles. Heart and mind would have to do the rest.
With my feet taped up in all my known blister spots covered, tunes in my ears, and Rebecca by my side we were at the starting line. She helped keep me on pace in the beginning…mostly telling me to slow down. And in those last few tough miles at the end, she was helping me get into that next gear that I didn’t realize I had. She was the glue that kept the machine together. I had planned for all that I could, except for the weather. We live in Northern Maine and the weather for mid-September is usually in the 60s… that’s what was forecasted for race day. Mother nature, however, had different plans as the cloudy overcast day quickly gave way to unseasonably hot weather. It was in the high 80s most of the race with little to no shade. The first 6 miles went pretty well, but then a new blister had formed in a new spot on my foot that I hadn’t planned for. So, I threw the plan book away and pushed forward. We were going to cross that line no matter what it took. They had taken a few people away by ambulance due to heat exhaustion, and I decided that if I was going to collapse then someone better drag me across!
That didn’t happen and I finished under my own power. I was breathing and walking, which meant I was still going forward. A quote that I remembered from Robert J. O’Neill a U.S. Navy Seal when he was going through “hell week” training “When you feel like quitting… and you will. That’s just emotion talking. Quit tomorrow.” Four hours and twenty-four minutes later we crossed that finish line, together. How sweet it was! Something that you had envisioned in your mind for months had come true. Those are the moments in life you live for. After hugs and high fives, it was time to rest and heal as my body was pretty beat up. Hips, feet, back, and toes all took quite a hit, but the pain was only temporary and what endures after that are just the memories, making it all worth it.
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“When you push your body and mind beyond their perceived limits, you discover just how much you are truly capable of, and that carries over into all other areas of your life.” – Justin Healey