Guest blog by Bryan Fessler
“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” – Bob Marley.
Hello, my name is Bryan Fessler. I’m a competitive walker in the ThedaCare Half Marathon of the Community First Fox Cities Marathon presented by Miron Construction. I’ve always loved walking, but I never did it competitively until six years ago.
When I was introduced to competitive walking I thought to myself, “How cool would it be to compete in something I already enjoy doing?”
I started training regularly and competed in my first competitive walking race in the Red Shoe Half Marathon in Iowa City, Iowa, which raises funds for the Ronald McDonald House. Then I started looking into other races and I discovered the Community First Fox Cities Marathon. This race in particular caught my eye because there was a competitive walking division and I wanted to see where I would stack up to some of the other people who do what I do.
I was set to race last year with more than 200 miles of training under my belt and a personal record of two hours and 34 minutes. At this pace, I would have been projected to come in at third or fourth place in the competitive walking division. I was ready!
Then ten days before race day, I was playing pickle ball with a friend and I felt a pop in my foot. I couldn’t walk or put any weight on my foot, and soon found out that I had ruptured my Achilles in my left foot. It was devastating.
I had to have surgery followed by a year of physical therapy. To make matters worse, my mother passed away just 12 days after my surgery. This was the darkest point in my life and I never felt so low. I needed to find something to motivate me to get me up and keep moving.
I decided I had worked too hard to just give up and my mom wouldn’t want to see me stop doing what I loved either. I went to physical therapy and did everything I was asked to do. I powered through the pain, made the appointments and saw progress take shape.
In January 2019, my doctor cleared me to start training again. I have been training weekly and I upped my route by one mile every weekend. Currently, I am up to 290 miles since starting at zero in January.
I learned through this process that mental strength is just as important as physical strength, and many times it’s tougher. You have to fight yourself. You have to motivate yourself even when you don’t want to. For me, I had a drive to continue walking because I didn’t want to become immobile.
I believe if you set your mind to something and you work to meet that goal there is nothing that can get in your way. I look forward to seeing you at the start line!