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By Ric Llewellyn
Last August I told you that I was going to run in the California International Marathon (CIM) as a fundraiser for a friend who suffered a spinal cord injury. Hopefully we can all benefit from the allegory of the marathon.
I had entered the race in June and began training exclusively for it in July. Yet the marathon would not be run until Dec. 8.
Many things happen quickly in life. The quick and easy things are probably the most trivial. The difficult things -- the decisive, meaningful, significant things -- take time to achieve.
To do so a person must make a commitment. Simply saying, "I'm going to run a marathon," isn't a commitment. I filled out the form and paid my entry fee. And while the money mattered, that wasn't all there was to my commitment.
My name went on the list of runners published on the website. It was public. I had promised the world that I would run the race! Too dramatic?
The point is that when you set out to graduate from USC or live independently despite paralysis, let the world know you've made a commitment. Yes, there will be that anxious fear of failure. But the benefit is that you will be energized by the support of all the people who will encourage you.
Everyone knew I would be running and I feared that I would disappoint them by quitting. But the support I received from colleagues and friends soon drove out that fear and I had embraced my commitment.
Next, make a plan. Not in your head; write it down somewhere conspicuous. My plan was posted in my cubicle at work and displayed on a desk at home.
Who could run nearly every day for four months with just a whispered promise to himself? Put your plan on the bathroom mirror. Post it on the inside of your front door. Make it your screensaver. Take it with you everywhere!
The road to your marathon will be strewn with obstacles. Family crises, work schedules, financial problems, weariness and frustration will arise to trip you up. But you will always have a precise plan to refer to. It will remind you of the goal and of the people rooting for you to succeed.
It's a lot of work and you haven't even begun to run.
When the horn sounded to start the 2013 CIM, it was 27 degrees. I made all the adjustments I could on short notice. But when it's time to execute your plan you may have to deal with conditions for which you aren't prepared.
My public commitment and months of training made it possible for me to overcome the weather and run. Although it was literally freezing, once I started there was no stopping me!
You may find it overwhelming that you are just one of thousands of new students on campus. Or you may be pushed to the limit with frustration and despair as you work to recover from a terrible injury.
The strength and focus you will find within yourself and the energy others share will enable you to endure as you go after your goal. Once you start, your commitment and preparation will enable you to carry on.
It's 26.2 miles to the finish. It's four years or more to a degree. It's a lifetime of work to overcome the limitations of a spinal cord injury.
But as I watched the mile markers pass I knew I was progressing. Hundreds of spectators cheered and they reminded me of all the people supporting my effort.
It won't be easy, but you will check off courses as completed on your way to a degree. Or you will document the progress of long grueling hours of rehab work.
Face the obstacles and celebrate each milestone. Regardless of the hardships and difficulties, continue moving toward your goal. You are prepared and committed.
My race didn't go as planned. But I did complete the entire 26.2 miles. Reaching your goal is up to you.
Share your commitment with others. It creates a lot of accountability but leads to success. Plan and prepare to do the work necessary to reach the goal. It builds a great foundation of confidence. Then run and we'll all see you at the finish line.
-- Ric Llewellyn is a community columnist whose work appears in The Californian's Local section every third Saturday. Email him at llewellyn.californian@ gmail. com. These are Llewellyn's opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.