…A Happy Buddha

Mutianyu, PRC April 2018

Dark colours hide physical imperfections, so ‘they’ say.

I say that the essence of a person lies far beneath what you can see, but rather in how their soul speaks to you despite their physical appearance.

In April 2018, I travelled with my wife to the People’s Republic of China to check off a bucket list item – To walk the Great Wall of China. It was a spectacular experience, but it wasn’t until several days later that the real experience hit me.

It started in Mutianyu, a small village ninety minutes NNE of Beijing. Three lovely, respectful local ladies approached us, lifted their cameras and bowed their heads. My intuition says: “They want to take your picture”. I nodded yes and started to pose like a runway model, they laughed. As one of the ladies prepared to take a picture, the other two came toward us and hug us as we came together for the photo. They than traded places and after a series of clicks, smiles, and hugs, they thanked us, hugged us and off they went.

While in Beijing, this scenario played out repeatedly during our visit to Tiananmen Square – twice, The Forbidden City – twice, The Emperor’s Garden – once, and Jingshan Park – once. However, the next day when we were at the Temple of Heaven it happened thrice. In all these interactions, unlike the ladies in Mutianyu, our hosts wanted photos with just me, not me and my wife. These folks were individuals, couples, young and old, and families.

It was at the Temple of Heaven when I encountered a large family those youngest son spoke English. So, I had to ask: ” Why do the locals here want pictures with me?”, his response: ” It’s because you look like…A Happy Buddha“.

I was speechless while I was processing his answer…

My mind saying: “He’s right, you have spent the last nine years on the couch”. The words that came out of my mouth: ” Thank-you, that is very kind of you to say, bless you, and your family”

I quickly realized it was a matter of perception, culture, and beliefs. From their perspective, they were bestowing a great honour on me! From my perspective, I was out of shape, the proverbial ‘couch potato’ as things happen with studies, career, family and aging parents taking priority.

As we left for the flight home, I promised myself that the next bucket list item would be to run a 1/2 Marathon, and a year later, a Marathon. I started running when I was 14 and ran right into my late 40s until an injury sidelined me and I stopped.

On May 1, 2022, I ran my first ever 1/2 Marathon. I didn’t win the race nor did I even come close, but in my mind I won. I do think though that I had the nicest shoes.

While I did all the hard work to get me to the finish line, One of the things that I realized was that I was aging, and that if I needed to get stronger, leaner and proverbially, meaner, I was going to need some help:

1. In 2018, I joined Goodlife Fitness and engaged a personal trainer. That is were I met @mb_rehab_performance (Matt Brennan). You set me on the path to success and kept me accountable for 18 months. Thank-you! You Rock!

2. In 2019, I joined the @heartandstroke Foundation’s Activate Program. They are a leader in heart health, heart wise nutrition, and healthy living.

3. In late 2020, I joined Peloton digital and started training with @becsgentry. This same year, I also purchased a Peloton Bike+ for cross-training purposes.

4. In early 2021, I received my Bike+ and started the cross training.

5. In December 2021, I registered for the Toronto Marathon in the 1/2 Marathon category.

6. From December 2021 to April 2022, I was virtually coached and guided by @becgentry, @mattwilper, @oamato and all the other great trainers and coaches @onepeleton

I had 3 goals for this 1/2 marathon:

A. Finish – without the need of an ambulance

B. Finish in under 3 hours

C. Stretch Goal finish in under 2.5 hours.

I succeeded in 2 of the 3 goals: 2HR 38MIN 06SEC

Toronto, Canada May 1, 2022

Here are My learnings from this experience:

1. If you have always been an athlete and you get injured, DO NOT STOP! find another activity to maintain your physical fitness – The human body was NOT designed to remain at rest. Can’t Run! Swim, Cycle, Walk

2. If you have never worked out, it’s never too late to start. Age is just a number. Confirmed by the 80+ year old that beat me across the finish line by 10 minutes. He has inspired me!

3. You can’t do this alone! Well, you can, but if you want to avoid injury, seek help – seeking help is a sign of strength! go for it!

4. Sore legs, Sore neck, Sore back, Acid reflux, Breathlessness, Stress – all are just a distant memory now. Strength training, Cardio, Rest, and recover activities all contributed to better overall health. Again, this is my experience. Seek medical advice before starting any exercise regiment.

5. Being part of a community of like minded individuals is inspiring. all those people at the finish line cheering ALL the runs on without even knowing us. The folks manning the Slava Ukraini water station on Rosedale valley road where awesome! To the lady near the start of the marathon holding up the sign: ” Smile if you’re Running Commando”. The numerous volunteers, race officials, and of course, the Police Officers and medical staff who kept us safe.

6. There are people out there that will support you to be the best version of yourself! Find them!

If my experience inspires just one person to lace up their shoes and go for a walk today, then sharing my 4-year health journey was well worth it. All the best to all of you, be safe, happy and true to you! Thank-you for reading. please share your thoughts!


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