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One of the best perks of being a part of the Vega Team is the inspirational stories that continually come to us from those who have changed their entire existence with dedication, perseverance, faith and great nutrition. Now we'd like to pass on some inspiration to you and to help motivate you to create great things for yourself—much like Vega Ambassador David McGuire did when he beat the odds and began his Run to Remember with a marathon-a-day, across Canada.
Inspire Me: David McGuire
Vega Team recently caught up with David McGuire, Vega ambassador and the guy behind a one-man awareness campaign called A Run to Remember. In 2005, David suffered a stroke which left him with a brain injury and it was uncertain if he would survive. Medical staff informed David's family that he might never walk again, let alone run.
Saddled with permanent short-term memory loss, and aphasia (a brain-injury induced loss of language comprehension and expression), David survived and was determined to prove them wrong. He began running as part of rehabilitation and completed his first marathon in 2006, only one full year after his brain injury. In April of 2011, David began his Run to Remember, all the way across Canada, completing a marathon-a-day to support brain injury awareness. He began his run in St. John's, Newfoundland and ended in Victoria, BC just before the 2011 holiday season. David ran for 8 months straight, raising awareness for brain injury in every town he visited, across Canada.
Brain injury has been labelled an epidemic and is the greatest cause of death and disability under 45, surpassing cancer, heart disease, diabetes and all other causes. The name of the campaign is significant because problems with memory are often a major outcome of brain injury, as they are for David. To run a marathon-a-day across Canada is an amazing feat. The strength and determination to continue through rain, wind, cold and sickness is incredibly inspiring. We interviewed David to find out more about his journey and just how crazy a person would need to be to brave a marathon-a-day for 8 consecutive months. David revealed to us his motivation for the run, how he made the distance and what he learned about himself along the way.
10 Questions with David McGuire
What inspired you to do this run?
To be honest, it started with anger and frustration. I'm incredibly grateful to live in a country that offers quality brain surgery and care. However I did find there to be a lack of resources upon leaving the hospital to aid in my recovery. I left the hospital with a different brain than I cam in with and there were few resources available to help me adjust, get back to work and re-enter society.
After meeting other brain injury survivors, I learned just how lucky I was to have not also been affected physically by my injury. I began to wonder what the outcome is for people who fall victim to more severe and physical symptoms. Overtime, I learned many brain injury survivors wind up homeless, in prison, or in special care homes—if they are lucky enough to get in. For numerous reasons, I want to help raise awareness for brain injury in hopes of improving the resources available for the many people affected by it.
How did you physically and nutritionally prepare for such a feat?
After I woke from my coma, I had to spend time learning to walk and talk again. During my recovery, I saw a documentary on prisoners coming out of prison in better shape than when they went in. At that time, I felt like I was in kind of a mental prison. While I often forgot where I was and what I was doing, I could still work out and run and this was my escape.
When I ran and would often forget how long I had been running and forget to stop. Other times, I would forget that I had run for hours the day before and so I began to keep a running journal. My sister—the family marathoner—read my journal one day and could not believe that I had been running more than she was at the time. Next thing I knew, I was in a pair of proper sneakers and joined a running clinic. Less than a year after my accident, I had completed the Chicago Marathon with my sister, and with a feeling of great accomplishment.
I went on to complete my first triathlon in the Vancouver Triathlon (Olympic Distance) and after that the Penticton Ironman—I was unstoppable. It was at this point that I reflected on how far I had come, and realized my desire to run across the country and raise money for brain injury awareness.
I had no idea how to prepare for this conquest, but knew I had to keep running. I started training for the Goofy Challenge in Disney World, a 1/2 marathon followed the next day by a full marathon and became a Vega ambassador so I could get the necessary nutrients my body needed, especially as I began demanding more from my body.
When I started training for my first marathon, I did not have a great understanding of nutrition. I had a basic understanding and found I was in a new world of gels, sports and recovery drinks, where everyone seemed to have an opinion. I tried everything—and I mean everything. I went from common sports drinks, to creating my own and finally found Vega. The vast majority of sport nutrition products available were packed with chemicals with words I can't pronounce.
As I increased my physical activity, I became more aware of what I was putting in my body and could feel the difference in my athletic performance. I had a new understanding and appreciate for recovery too. With proper nutrition, I hurt a little less and could go a little further.When I finished the Goofy Challenge, and trained for the Ironman I was pretty good at fitting training in to a busy day. Going to school and working, I had to adapt and juggle priorities. I started running before and after work every second day and on my day's off, I would run for up to six consecutive hours. I ran everywhere.
Who was supporting you along the way? How did the run impact their lives?
I was supported by my incredible wife. During the 8-9 months of my run across Canada, I was not eligible for provincial disability income, and so my wife and I took a big hit financially. My wife, who is a teacher, was not only working full time, but part time at two other companies and tutoring on the side to make this happen. I joke that all I had to do was "run a marathon-a-day for close to a year" and that she had the hard job. But jokes aside, her support made this dream of mine possible, and for that I am grateful. I was also supported by a not-for-profit organization, called Braintrust Canada. Melissa Wild, from Braintrust Canada was my run manager, driver, cook, launder, nurse and mentor. Without her and Braintrust Canada, A Run to Remember would not have happened.
How many cities did you run through and which was your favourite?
I can't remember the number of cities, but I do know that we hit as many as we could across Canada because we wanted to talk to as many schools, athletes and sports organizations as possible. I took pictures of each city I ran through, which you can see on my blog in the Vega Community. The most beautiful and the one place I want to go back to was Prince Edward Island; it looked exactly like the postcards. The grass was green, the water was beautiful and the air was different. While PEI blew me away, truth be told, I fell in love with Canada.
What benefits did you experience from taking Vega on the run?
It's pretty simple—the benefits I got from taking Vega on the run with me was that I could get up each day and continue to run. Haha! I was able to run a marathon-a-day, I don't know what else needs to be said! As runners go, some of us are weird people and we get fixed on what works for us physically and nutritionally. The one thing I needed to do on this challenge was start my day with Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer. I also used Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer in the mornings and bars in the afternoon.
Vega helped my muscles recover. They were less sore and helped me move a little bit faster.When we ran out of Vega, I noticed a reduction in motivation; I hurt for longer and it felt like it took longer to recover. I lost my spunk when I did not have Vega. The proper nutrition the Vega products provided me was what made it possible for me to run that far.
How did people react to what you were doing?
People opened their doors to us, but the best reactions were from kids. I spoke at a number of schools across the country, to educate kids about brain injury and the importance of wearing a helmet and protecting their head. I explained that the majority of head injuries are preventable and by simply wearing a helmet but also that wearing a helmet could reduce their risk or serious brain injury. I shared with them that after my injury I had to "re-build" myself and get to know a new me. This one girl in grade 3 or 4 asked the best question ever: "Do you like the new you better than you like the old you?" this really hit home for me and I was blown away.
What was the most challenging point for you on your journey? What helped motivate you to keep going?
The biggest challenge I had physically was running a marathon every day. I would play games with myself. I would run from one street light to another and say that I am going to stop at the next one. And then I would just say this again at the next stop light. And so on.
I would say to myself "I really believe in what I am doing and I don't want anyone to go through what I went through." If all I have to do is run to make a difference, I can run.
You ended your run by jumping into the ocean in Victoria, BC. How cold was the water?
Pretty chilly! I have done the polar bear swim in Vancouver each New Year though, so I was prepared for it. Plus, I had just finished running across Canada, so I was on considerable adrenaline high!
How has completing this run impacted your life? Have you learned anything about yourself through the experience?
My outlook on life has definitely changed for the better. I was very disheartening after my head injury with the lack of services and support during my recovery. Running across the country really opened my eyes to the rest of the world, and through this journey I met some of the most amazing people in the world—so many true, compassionate individuals. I have renewed faith in humanity.
I have a new found confidence in myself. I mean, I just ran across the country!! That's very cool—It's great conversation starter. It was a lot of hard work and there were days that I didn't want to keep going. But it is important to me to inspire people by demonstrating that if a guy with a brain injury can set his mind to something and do it, then so can you!
It took a brain injury for me to realize my potential—if I only knew I had this potential before I had the brain injury.
Now that you have completed your Run to Remember, what comes next?
Great question. I took a couple weeks off to recover, but now my focus is on getting back to life and finding employment. My confidence came back. It's something I lost after my injury. Through this journey of recovery and overcoming my goal of completing A Run to Remember, I got to discover this new person. It's easy to sit back and do nothing with a brain injury, but I want more out of life.
I work out in the gym every day to keep active and I recently started a workout routine, called Buds workout. It's designed for the US Navy Seal elite teams and is super intense. I love it.
I'm extremely motivated to relieve my wife of working so hard, so it's all about finding a job that will work with my short term memory loss and support her and I financially. There is a phase in recovery of mourning the old you and getting to know the new you—and well, I like this new guy.