What's Your Speed?

My speed is  slow and slower. I would love to run or even perhaps jog a bit to pick up speed, but slow and slower is my pace these days.  Speed is my enemy and when I do try to go faster, my feet get tangled and I am quickly facing another slip and slide adventure.

A recent headline about speed and Multiple Sclerosis jumped out at me recently – 70 year old Kermit Wieselquist, in Massachusetts, is retiring his bike.  This isn’t just any bike, but a red bike that he has used for MS Bike fundraisers for 22 years.

It's not just a red bike - it is a one-speed bike he got in 1966, the type of bike like so many of us had when we were young.  No fancy gears, no special pedals or aerodynamic styling – just a plain old red bike. Do you remember a bike like that and the effort it took to go up hill and how treacherous it could be racing down a steep incline?

The story read that Mr. Wieselquist chose that red bike for his MS rides before ones with gears for easier and faster riding were readily available, and he has refused to change to an easier bike to ride.  He is definitely at a disadvantage and he has to work harder to stay up with the other riders, which he says is symbolic of how those of us with MS often have that same challenge to keep up.   It may not be possible to walk in our shoes, but he certainly has gotten close by taking his single speed rides and being at the back of the pack.

The most recent MS ride he took on his red bike was a route of 150 miles; I can’t imagine going that far in one speed.  Until I was diagnosed with MS, I had more speeds, but that isn’t the case anymore.

When my husband and I are out walking, he slows his pace to keep me company rather than rushing ahead.  My grandchildren slow to almost a crawl from their usual breakneck speed, when they are out with me – even the not quite three-year-old can beat me in a foot race these days.  I prefer to not think of these outings as slow, but more akin to a leisurely stroll.  At least that sounds better.

In those moments when I allow myself to imagine greater physical goals, I can almost picture myself completing a 5K run – not at a record speed, but at least finishing one. There is always that person who finishes last and I wouldn’t mind if that were me. Something always brings me back to reality, often it is the slight breeze of someone else jogging past me on the track, and I readjust my goals to something a bit more achievable, such as making it around the track four times, regardless of my time or cadence.

I watched Serena Williams win the US Tennis Open, and Diane Nyad complete her distance swim from Cuba to the shores of Key West, and neither of those created illusions of grandeur that I could participate in those sports, but kicking up my heels just a bit is a different thing. I think about how nice it would be to jog one lap around that, or run and play tag with the grandchildren. There are many people with MS who can complete a race or hop on their bike and ride 150 miles.  I would be ecstatic to get on a bike again and ride it once around that track in place of jogging, but my balance would make that a disaster and I would need much more in safety equipment than just a helmet.

My pace these days, tends to be the slow and slower variety – there is definitely no high gear or passing gear in my legs.  What's your speed?

Wishing you well,


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