Milwaukee's Jenny Crain: Finding Her Stride
In August 2007, I was still living in Columbus, Ohio. My familiarity with Milwaukee had been confined to the weekend trip I'd taken in April earlier that year to visit my brother, who was in his first year at Marquette Law. My brother lived on North Prospect, just two blocks north of Brady Street. In August 2007, I didn't know that at the very same intersection I'd crossed with my brother months before, the life of a celebrated runner would be forever changed, her dreams of Olympic glory would be silenced in a matter of seconds.
I recently read an article in Runner's World magazine about the sad story of Milwaukee runner Jenny Crain, and the hope she's given others in her ongoing rehablilitation at Mt. Carmel hospital. The top American female finisher in the 2004 New York City Marathon and three-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier was struck by a car at the intersection of Brady and Farwell after going on one of her routine runs down Lincoln Memorial Drive one summer afternoon.
I was glued to the lengthy article, weaving in stories from her childhood to her time spent training for races and finally to the life she now knows in the brain-injury unit at the Rehabilitation Center in Mt. Carmel. I wanted to know the bubbly warmth of the pre-accident Jenny. I wanted to meet the survivor in the post-accident Jenny. In both incarnations of this inspirational woman, I found strength, tenacity, hope and endurance. The endurance of a marathon runner and the endurance of someone whose biggest goal is to walk 40 feet across a room.
I moved to Milwaukee's East Side in the summer of 2008, just blocks north of where Jenny Crain's life changed forever. I've run that route down Lincoln Memorial countless times, to the bench-lined walkway past the Milwaukee Art Museum, up to the Summerfest grounds and looping around Lakeshore State Park and back again. I've crossed the Brady Street Bridge and continued onward, just like Jenny did that morning. Though it may be cliched, it was hard for me to recount that running route, putting myself in her beat-up Sauconys, and not think "That could have been me." The truth is, it could have. It could have been any one of the East Siders who cross that intersection every day. I'm humbled by the thought that a world-class athlete could be struck down so quickly. But it happened, and life can't be turned back.
I know I'm a little late on this story (over two years late, actually), but hearing about it now, and the details of her recovery, I can't help but feel sad for the dream that will never be realized, but hopeful for a new set of goals for Jenny to achieve. Her stride may be changed, but the finish line is never too far from sight.
If you're looking for inspiration today, please read her incredible story from Runner's World here: http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-243-297--13329-1-1X2X3X4X5X6X7X8X9X10X11-12,00.html