The Mission Inn Run team loves to hear about individuals who participate in the Run. How it has changed their life and transformed their health. We received an incredible story from Ignacio Soto. This is what he said….
I was on the freeway driving home late one night (or technically, early one morning), and saw headlights in front of me. How strange. Maybe a car got spun around in an accident? I quickly realized that this car was moving toward me, but I didn’t realize it quickly enough.
I was in shock after the collision, but very lucid. I was trying to make small talk with the paramedics, trying to show them (and myself) that I was ok. “Is this type of thing normal for you?” I asked. It wasn’t. “Where are we going?” They told me the name of the hospital, and I confirmed the location with them. My body was only responding to the smallest requests for movement, but at least my brain appeared to be working.
I wish the same could be said for the other driver. As you may have guessed, he was in no condition to be driving. His blood alcohol level was way over the legal limit, and who knows if he was on anything else that couldn’t be measured with a Breathalyzer.
That early morning was painful, but as the adrenaline wore off and soreness set in, the pain got worse. I could barely move my legs, and getting out of bed was out of the question. Luckily, I did not have any life threatening or permanently debilitating injuries.
At that point in my life, I was eating a somewhat-healthy diet and working out during the week, but weekends were full of cases of beer and fast food. It was a delicate, but manageable balance. When I started working in front of a computer all day a few years before, I discovered that I needed some type of exercise to keep strange headaches and anxiety at bay, and knew there was a connection between physical and mental health, especially for me. As long as I could run a few miles a week or play an occasional basketball game, I felt good enough. In fact, I felt strong. In my early twenties, the balancing act worked.
As my body began to heal, the mental strength I had immediately after the accident wore away. With chronic pain and thoughts of “Why me?”, I sank into anxiety and depression. It became another form of debilitation, much worse than simply feeling sad. Worse yet, there was no way I could go for a run, which was the best mental healing mechanism that I knew of. I developed incredible fatigue, and my mind started playing strange tricks on me.
One night I saw police lights as I was driving toward the site of the accident, and I felt that if I continued I would get into another accident, so I exited the freeway, hyperventilating. Another night I was afraid to drive 2 miles and pick up a pizza for dinner, because I thought something bad would happen if I left the house.
Fortunately, I was participating in physical therapy and actively healing and rebuilding my body. Running was still out of the question, but I started riding a bicycle around the neighborhood, which was much kinder on my body. I was doing better physically, which laid the foundation to recover mentally.
As a guitarist in a local band, I was regularly at local shows, whether I was playing or not. It was much harder to get out and enjoy these shows after the accident. I was feeling terrible one particular night, and had no intention of going to a show that was happening just a few miles away. I didn’t think anyone would care if I went anyway. I got a text asking if I was going, which proved that my negative thoughts were just wrong. I was exhausted and fatigued, as I often was at that point, but I got a coffee and drove to Downtown Fullerton.
Seeing my friends, telling them I was getting better, watching some great live music, and unexpectedly running into an old friend was just what I needed. My friends and family were always supportive during this time, but this night reiterated a message that I desperately needed to hear. I wasn’t forgotten. Others cared about me and wanted me around.
The bike rides got longer: 10, 15, 20, and eventually 30 miles. My physical therapist saw that I was doing better and sent me on my way. I couldn’t go out and drink all night if I wanted to do those rides the next day, but that was fine. Nothing felt as good as going outside, moving and pushing my physical limits. I was losing the weight that I gained while I was stuck on the couch. I began running around the block, slowly increasing my distance. I started taking boxing classes. I was on a slow and steady comeback, and there was no reason why I couldn’t come back stronger than before.
It took nearly 2 years, but I eventually managed to do a 6-mile run, which was further than I had ever run before! A friend suggested that I run a 10k race in Riverside, the Mission Inn Run. I had never run a race before, but I knew I could do that distance, so I signed up.
The race was the day after my birthday, so I couldn’t go party that weekend. That was fine with me, but I’m sure the 23-year old version of me would have been shocked. “Really, you would rather get up at sunrise to run than stay out until sunrise having a good time?” I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in another year of being alive than to celebrate my health and mobility.
There was a different kind of energy at the race. This wasn’t the same thing as going for a run on my own, or even with a friend. The endless sea of runners made me want to go faster than ever, which is exactly what I did. There was always someone in front of me to try to catch up to. As the race got to the 4 mile mark, I began to slow, but the woman I had been running next to waved her hand, motioning for me to “come on!”, so I pushed myself to keep up.
By the last mile of the race, I was flying past most of the other runners. I’m sure that a summer full of 30+ mile bike rides gave me more than enough endurance to finish a 10k strong. I knew I was doing well, but I didn’t expect this.
Top 100 Male, out of approximately 350. I barely made the cut, but I’ll take it!
This confirmed that what doesn’t kill me really can make me stronger; that gradual progress could lead to great progress. I knew that I could apply what I have learned during these three years to anything. Yes, if I can do this, I can do anything, and while I may not get there the fastest and win first place, I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I can finish better than I ever imagined.
I don’t think there is anything is particularly special about me, and I believe anyone could have done what I did, in their own way and at their own pace. I’m certainly not the only one with a recovery story. Everyone is faced with difficult obstacles, and the human spirit can be more resilient than we realize.
Here’s to you overcoming your obstacles and finishing better than you ever imagined!”