We got a lot of positive feedback last month on Angie Heuser’s first-person story about learning to surf. So we asked her if we could share another episode from her life — this time about the trials of her first 10K race post-amputation. Both articles come from her blog, Stepping Out in Faith. Thanks, Angie, for sharing your journey.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.” — Helen Keller

That hill you see before me was quite intimidating. As you can see by my head pointing down, my focus wasn’t on the long incline ahead, just the next step right before me.

Several months before the Humana Rock n Roll Arizona 10K in late January, I had preconceived notions of what my race was going to look like. I was sure I was going to be running every step with ease. But as the event drew closer, I realized my socket wasn’t fitting properly, and I had gotten sore and banged up a little from everyday use. Such is the life of an amputee, especially in the first year or so. During that time the limb is constantly changing and shrinking. I’ve been so active and getting back to my routine that I see change in my limb throughout the day.

One of the hardest things for me to do is admit if I have set an unrealistic goal. I’m a perfectionist and very strict with my goal-setting. This is both good and bad. It’s good because I believe being hard on myself has helped me, especially this past year, focus on positive outcomes and not on the pain and challenges of my new norm. However, it’s bad because if I come to a point of realizing that a goal just can’t be reached in MY time frame, I struggle with disappointment and feel like I’ve let myself down. This can be self-destructive.

The Rock n Roll 10K was the first goal since my amputation that I knew I wasn’t going to shine at….not the way I had visualized it, anyway. I wasn’t competing with others, I was competing with myself — and I wasn’t going to win. While I was climbing this hill with my head down, I was doing a lot of self-talk. I had to find a way to finish with my head held high. The moment you see in this photograph had me way out of my comfort zone. It also was stretching my resolve and building character within me, making me a better version of myself. As Helen Keller stated, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.”

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quiet, but I finished my 10K as an above-knee amputee. I drew some positives out of it. For example, I have never walked that pace for that long. To accomplish that, I endured nerve pain like none I’ve ever felt, and I never gave up. I was able to put in a few running strides and give my running blade some purpose. I had beautiful friends surrounding me throughout the race who gave me the space I needed to think through my mental game but also knew exactly when I needed some conversation to distract me from the pain. When at last I saw the finish line, I looked up, smiled and pushed forward strong. People I didn’t even know cheered for me (they probably saw the pain on my face, and surely noticed my gingerly gait) and gave me high fives.

It was then that I realized what I had accomplished. And I did it for me! I am proud of myself for having the perseverance to push myself 6.2 miles. I am grateful for the friend who challenged me to this race a week before my amputation, a year ago. I am so thankful to my PTs and medical staff who joined me in this quest. It was hard, so very hard, but when pushed against the ropes I can say that I came out victorious and a better person for it. I learned more about who I am in those moments of pain and weakness than I ever could just sitting back in comfort, watching life pass by.

The true goal may never have been to finish the race but to find out who I am, to see who I was created to be. Whatever your race in life, just know that it’s not about the finish line, but the journey. Each of us has our own hurdles and struggles. We must not give up! It is in these trials that we experience the most growth within ourselves. Be bold! Focus on the next step! Never give up! You may surprise yourself on the road you end up walking. Use those hard moments to strengthen your soul. Enjoy the journey. I know I am!

Postscript: Angie didn’t mention this in her article, but she wasn’t just running for herself in the R&R10K. She raised $5,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to support the quest for new treatments and cures for children’s cancer. She told St. Jude: “I didn’t go through [amputation] to play it safe. It’s all about facing fears and overcoming.”