Only Possibilities

Point to Pinnacle pre-race dinner was part of the race entry package. We thought we would hear a bit of motivational running speeches to help us get up the mountain, we didn’t know we would be completely blown away by the story of one amazing Australian athlete.

A happy snap from the dinner

A happy snap from the dinner

John McLean was an able-bodied sportsman who, in 1988, while on a training cycle ride suffered severe injuries as a result of a truck accident.  This accident put him in a wheelchair.  It changed his life as he knew it but not his determination to be an athlete and to live life to the fullest.

Despite incredible pain and long long months and years of rehabilitition he worked hard and got to a point where he was able to enter the Hawaiian Ironman. This is known as the world’s toughest Ironman contest. An Ironman involves a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break.

One of the things that struck me, apart from the fact that this guy is very much a down-to-earth Australian with a great Aussie sense of humour, was his determination not to be defined by a wheelchair. He attempted the Hawaiian Ironman three times until he was able to do each discipline within the able-bodied cut off times.

After one attempt where he’d been given a finsher’s medal, a friend told him he would have to give the medal back (gasp! who would say such thing?  A true friend, that’s who). I sat there in stunned silence as he recounted this story. The friend said that while he had completed the Ironman, he hadn’t done it on able-bodied terms so he had unfinished business and had to do it again. John came back the following year (1997) and did it.  In a wheelchair he completed the Ironman in the times set aside for people who can use their legs and arms!  He did it just with his arms!  John’s sporting achievements are huge.  They include the Olympics and being inducted into the American Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon Hall of Fame – the only Australian to have this honour.

We saw a video of his Hawaiian Ironman and were just blown away by how tough it was. Some of the hills saw him turning around and pushing his wheelchair backwards centimetre by centimetre up big inclines.

And we all thought running up a mountain was tough?


But then the most amazing thing happened. He talked about his journey of getting out of his wheelchair and walking again.  Walking again after 25 years without the use of his legs. In 2013 he was approached by a Neuro Physics therapist, Ken Ware and started the WareK Health trigger process.

The next video we saw from later in 2013 was of John participating in a smaller triathlon as an able-bodied athlete.

(Cue immense understatement)

It was inspirational.

The mental toughness this guy must have is unbelievable.

He had spent the time talking to us sitting in his wheelchair which is still his primary mode of getting around. The next thing he did was rise to stand and speak to us from the lectern as the other speakers had done that night.

He told us that transformation is about choice. This said from a man who had spent 25 years in a wheelchair and then chose to have a go at this unique therapy and is now standing and walking AND finishing a triathlon on his own two legs. He told us that pain is temporary and to think of the finish line and how we will feel. To push forward to achieve the goal; to run the World’s Toughest Half-Marathon, the Point to Pinnacle.  This echoed with the mantra that I received from Running Wild.  As I chipped away at that big mountain on Sunday I thought of the finish line and how I would feel if I ran all the way and how I would feel if I didn’t. Change the way I think?  Running all the way became the only option to get me from the bottom to the top.  This was my personal goal for the event and I really wanted to achieve it more than I wanted to walk.  I gained some mental toughness that night from John and more so from achieving my goal.

Pain is temporary, think of the finish line.  Now I’ve heard this said many times. Seen it on memes. But to be told this by a guy who has achieved a remarkable goal from the worse starting point of all. Powerful.

Please visit John’s website for the full story. He also has a foundation that cares and gives hope to children who get around in wheelchairs.

What we thought was going to be a night of speakers turned into a night of hearing the most amazing true life story. It really put wings (or in this case legs) to the statement if you can dream it you can achieve it. Between dream and achieve has to be a whole lot of determination, damn hard work and true belief that we can.

Only Possibilities is John’s personal mission statement.

Happy running 🙂

Ps This little post does not do John’s story justice.  Please visit his website, it’s beautifully designed and easy to read – well worth the visit:

PPs I managed a 15km run today.  Last year it took me well over a week to recover from P2P, it just shows that with training and little increments we succeed in this running world.  I’m so grateful to my body that I can run, even more so because of the privilege of hearing John McLean tell us his story.  And today my beautiful blogging friend Sue, from Travel Tales of Life wrote a beautiful post that totally overwhelmed me.  Thank you Sue, your encouragement is priceless to me.  I feel so honoured and humbled all at the same time!

25 thoughts on “Only Possibilities

  1. Annie you have retold Hohn’s story in a mesmerizing way. What an inspiration as you headed out todo P2P. As for the blog post you helped me so much in many points of training over this past year. Your positive words and mantras made all the difference. You will know when it is time to do a post to pay it forward to someone else. 🙂 Happy running!

    • Thanks Sue 🙂 I was concerned that I had made it too small. I sat on this post for 24 hours to think about it. I will certainly pay it forward – I was so overwhelmed yesterday. Thanks again. And Happy Running, Cycling, Rock Climbing, Paragliding, Scuba Diving…gosh Happy Adventuring to you 🙂

  2. I am familiar with the challenges of training for and competing at an Ironman event so I know first hand how truly humbling John McLean’s story really is.
    As KelsieLou said before me … I will think of him whenever I’m inclined to whine about having a bad day.

  3. Inspirational. Sue’s post prompted me to come check your blog out and I’m glad I did. Great read, and it almost makes me want to go get my running shoes on…later maybe! 😉

  4. Wow! His story is so inspiring! Mental toughness is definitely not my strength, I don’t know how someone with his disadvantages accomplishes such amazing things! It really is inspiring and a slap in the face to my usual “it’s too hard” whine. It’s possible. Hard, but possible.

    • It’s hard to break out of our usual way of thinking and face challenges that we think are just too hard. It’s being human I think. We can all take courage from John’s story – honestly that’s how it came across. He wants us to face our challenges whatever that means so that we can feel what it feels like to conquer them. Hard, but possible sums it up very well, thanks Cynthia 🙂

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