A close friend, Mark Stephan, endured a horrible cycling accident a number of years ago which left him a quadriplegic.
Mark’s wife, Margaret Ann, was told to expect the worse — she was told Mark would “likely be like (and end like) Christopher Reeves”. Mark never saw his future that way. And his grit, and willingness to subject himself to intense physical exertion, pain, and frequent disappointment was complemented by tremendously advanced medical care at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). Fast forward, and Mark now walks — albeit haltingly. Further, he can pick up a wine glass and serve himself. Mark is nothing short of a medical miracle. But as important, Mark is a fascinating example of a great Musher. Mark was vision-oriented from the very beginning of his rehabilitation. He convinced others that his objectives could be met. He pushed, and continues to push others — often knowledgeable medical experts — to believe that more could be achieved, and that he was the one, with their help, who could achieve it.
Many people in this situation would feel so helpless, and might blanch at the need to build and rely upon a team of family, friends, and medical institutions and professionals to realize an audacious vision of being able to walk again. But Mark showed everyone the way, while demonstrating an unbelievable sense of caring for his team. A great example of self-interested caretaking. Mark’s a true Musher.
Now Mark is embarking upon yet another a personal undertaking which most would say is audacious, let alone ambitious. His intention is to ride a reclining tricycle 3,129 miles across the entire southern United States — from San Diego, CA to St Augustine, FL— over a three month period. Riding along state routes, Mark and his entourage will get to reconnect with a portion of America which has largely become overlooked since the interstate system was put in place. The ride, known as The Stephan Challenge , is not only for Mark to “prove he can do it,” but equally to raise money for the RIC.
After many months of careful, thoughtful planning, the ride’s begun! I encourage you to visit the website and get a better sense of this remarkable man and of his incredible journey and cause.
If it sounds like I’m impressed with Mark, I am. I am so impressed that I intend to join him for several days of his ride in late April and early May. My portion of riding along with Mark will end in beautiful El Paso, Texas. Then I’ll fly home. But Mark will still have approximately 1,657 miles left to complete The Challenge.
However, with an inspirational Musher like Mark, he will always have a new team of fresh dogs to keep him company.