This Take the Lake adventure that I am on has been a lot more fun, and much more rewarding thanks to the many people who have worked so hard to help build a healthier Columbus County. I also credit the many people who changed their own lives, looking at one of the Personal Endurance Challenges they once thought was impossible, and one day saying, “I can do that.”
And then there is someone who has helped without even trying. Madelyn McCullen, the 17-year-old Whiteville girl who through elegant coincidence and plumb determination one summer has set us off on a fun and exciting journey.
When McCullen stood at the finish line of the 2011 Walk / Run and held her shoes in the air, I just happened to be standing there, awestruck, as I watched the scene through my viewfinder almost in
slow motion. The image went through my lens, hit my camera sensor and exploded into a big part of an exciting campaign for Columbus County fitness.
I’m talking about the photograph that, days later, was on the front page of this newspaper, then was 18-feet-tall on the front of our hospital, and then inside thousands of brochures and on the Take the Lake website. But that was just the beginning.
McCullen completed all four Take the Lake PECs that weekend, including the 14-mile paddle, the 15-mile Bike & Hike and the four-mile swim.
We have no idea how many people saw her photo and achievements and thought; “Hey, I can do that.” But, the year after McCullen’s first grand-slam of Take the Lake, five other teenage girls completed all four PECs, remarkable achievements that are documented in video interviews in Whiteville.com’s Sports of all Sorts section and right here.
Did any of these girls build their dreams on Madelyn’s achievements? We don’t know, but her success surely was inspiring.
Did she set out to energize and motivate people? I doubt it. All McCullen did was set an audacious goal, and head for it with fierce tenacity, so I don’t want to make her out to be some kind of fitness-marketing hero.
But that message of accidental inspiration is even more powerful than if we had brought an Olympic athlete here. McCullen’s story tells us that chasing your own dreams is not a totally selfish act, as your success can inspire others in ways greater than you think.
McCullen has completed all four of the Take the Lake PECs for the past two years, and she had her heart set on completing all four in a single day during the X-TREME! competition later this month.
Nobody doubted she could do just that, but recent surgery has changed that plan, and she’s been benched for the better part of the summer.
I went to her house this week, not to encourage her to fight the injury and attempt to continue her streak with the X-TREME!, but I wanted her to know that, by grabbing hold of such a bold dream as she had done, and by unexpectedly becoming our poster girl, she had already achieved something greater than she likely knew. I tried to explain her real achievements.
To climb a mountain alone can be quite a feat, and the view can be beautiful from up there, alone. But if you then inspire and encourage others to follow, well, that’s the real success. It’s not so much about saying, “look what I did,” as it is to say, “look what you can do!”
McCullen’s victorious salute has evolved even more this year. Several law enforcement officers gathered in July for a promotional photograph, all holding up running shoes, and we put that image in this newspaper and on a banner at Columbus Regional Healthcare.
The running shoe theme is one that we intend to run with.
We have spray painted some old shoes bright red, and when I see people training for Take the Lake, I will ask to photograph them with Columbus County’s newest symbol of fitness, and I’ll put everyone on a website slide show.
McCullen’s shoes weren’t completely red, but we chose this as the new icon of health, exercise and fitness for Columbus County. The Red Running Shoes will inspire us to be more active, and I hope will lead us into a new era of wellness here.
And they will inspire us to live our lives saying more often, “I can do this,” and then sharing our success with, “see what you can do!”
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Take a few minutes and reel through the years of Take the Lake, as we review the many themes and posters that have helped make fitness more fun in Columbus County! Click here
DID YOU KNOW...
that the second-most-popular Boy Scout merit badge in the U.S. is for Swimming? And the ninth-most-popular is Personal Fitness? Yes!
Six girls complete
all four PECs.
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