Vidakovich Column: Going the distance
Many years ago, I read a book called “Going the Distance,” by George Sheehan, the renowned medical doctor and giver of sage running advice.
Sheehan authored many books during the early years of America’s running boom in the 1970s. His bestselling work, “Running and Being,” became a must read for all who aspired to a healthier physical and mental lifestyle through the practice of running.
In his later years of life, when Sheehan wrote “Going the Distance,” he was immersed in a personal and lengthy battle with prostate cancer. Becoming apparent that his days on Earth were drawing to a close, Sheehan wrote of the things that were now most important to him in life, and repeatedly wondered if his time on this planet had been profitable by asking the question, “Did I win?”
A few weeks back, following a sunny Sunday morning run, I was informed that Nancy Reinisch had passed away. She was at peace, as she always seemed to be, regardless of the many curve balls that life had tossed her way in recent years, and she was surrounded by her beloved family.
Sadness and surprise were the emotions that filled my heart on that late winter day. I had just seen Nancy and her husband, Dr. Paul Salmen, at the Jingle Bell 5k in Carbondale in mid-December. Nancy was her usual smiling, upbeat self, as she greeted me with her “Hi, Johnny Utah,” and a warm hug I had grown accustomed to when we bumped into one another at local running races. Nancy told me she was doing great and that it was nice to see the sun shining so brightly in the sky. After filling me with positive waves, Nancy and Dr. Paul headed for the starting line to tackle another in the many fitness adventures they conquered in their long lives together.
I didn’t know Nancy nearly as well as others who were fortunate enough to be in her close inner-circle, but I do know that she always brightened my day immensely when I talked with her. I knew of her struggles with cancer, but in being around her, you would never have a clue as to the turbulent times she must have faced in battling the horrendous disease.
This past August, at the Pyro’s Trail Run high up in the mountains above New Castle, I sat and chatted with Nancy and Dr. Paul following the completion of the 5-mile trail run. They both had covered the entire distance together, and while I was scrambling through a thicket of aspen trees, I even heard the Nancy Reinisch greeting to me, “Go, Johnny Utah.” At that point, I didn’t possess enough oxygen to give a return hello, but I did manage an appreciative wave with a thumbs up.
Thumbs up. That’s how I would describe Nancy’s life in a nutshell.
That summer day, way up in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, as I ate a burger and slurped a beer, Nancy said something that will always be with me. She told me that competing was no longer her goal, and hadn’t been for quite some time. Nancy stated that she was now a “Completer.” Her aim was to make sure that she showed up as often as was possible, and to complete the task at hand, no matter how formidable.
She never once mentioned cancer, or used it as a crutch or an excuse. It was just Nancy, and usually Paul, just a couple more participants at a starting line with a mission to complete.
Unlike Sheehan, Nancy Reinisch never needed to ask, “Did I Win.” Nothing was ever tough enough to stop her or even get in her way. She lived life on her terms, with the main goal being to help others.
Then, now, and forever.
Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.