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What Inspires Me: A Running Reflection

By Forrest Ericksen, proud Team Advocate runner in the 38th Annual Chicago Marathon

Published on October 15, 2015

An “inspired” start

2015 Marathon

On October 11, 2015, I was presented with the challenge of running in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. When I learned about this event, I began researching charities’ teams in an effort to gain a marathon bib. When I came across Team Advocate, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to run. My family and I believe that Advocate is much more than a hospital system, and Advocate Condell Medical Centerholds a special place in our hearts.

I began running, and the “Run, Forrest, Run” jokes were never more appropriate. I trained and prepared as the 26.2-mile event rapidly approached. Finally, I arrived in the city the night before the marathon and received my Team Advocate “Inspired to Run” marathon shirt. That shirt meant a lot, and I was wearing it 20 minutes later! It is the word “inspired” that means so much to me. Without inspiration, not many people would wake up at 5:30 am on a Sunday to run 26.2 miles.

The big question

I stood at the start line both nervous and excited. Prior to the start, someone took an interest in my shirt and asked, “What inspires you?” Although it was a loaded question, I did my best to answer it just 10 minutes before the start of the race. I am glad I was given an opportunity to answer the question more fully in this blog because it was on my mind for about 26.2 miles.

To answer the question, I will have to go back to 2010 when I was a healthy teenager participating in a sport I loved. But I sustained a traumatic brain injury while participating in an organized snowmobile race. I was unresponsive at the scene—and rushed to Advocate Condell Medical Center.

Beating the odds

When I arrived, the odds were stacked against me. But my physicians and nurses never gave up. They worked tirelessly around the clock to save my life. In the emergency room and then in the ICU, I spent a few weeks in a coma, and—despite my predicted prognosis—the staff continued to work on my behalf.

Through my Team Advocate fundraising, I was able to give back to these units—and all I had to do was run a few miles. I continued to think about this through mile 5, then mile 6, then….

Starting over

Around mile 10, my thoughts shifted slightly. I recalled having to train myself to walk again following my accident. I had worked so hard to get to this point in my recovery. I began to have flashbacks of therapy session after therapy session—and thinking about all I have overcome. I could name countless Advocate physicans who played a crucial part in giving me this opportunity. I began to run faster as I envisioned the look on their faces if they could see where I am now….mile 14, mile 15….

Family matters

Forrest Ericksken and siblings

Around mile 20, I began thinking about my family. I have two siblings, Mickenzie and Conner. Being the middle child, it is pretty clear that I am the favorite. The thing they will never fully understand is how much they mean to me, and how much I love them. I am very blessed to have such a close family. Without them, I would never have made it through my recovery. If they were asked, “Who is your hero?—I am confident they would answer that I am. For me, the answer was written on my hand throughout the marathon:“I run for Conner and Mickenzie.” I picked up the pace entering mile 22.

The answer is clear

As I continued to run, the end was in sight. I began thinking about whether or not I could find the man from the starting line who asked me the question, “What inspires you?” I was much more prepared to answer his question at this point because I had a long time to think about it (I’m not as fast as you may think, so I had a lot of time to consider my answer ). Unfortunately, he had mixed in with the 40,000 other runners, and I never got a chance to give him an answer.

But in case he is reading this, my answer is: Condell Advocate Medical Center inspires me. They saved my life and gave me opportunities that at one time seemed unattainable. Every day, they help people just like me, and I hope they realize the difference they make in the lives of others.

Thank you, Advocate Condell Medical Center! I look forward to seeing you at the 39th Annual Chicago Marathon. I will be the one in the Advocate “Inspired to Run” shirt.