Article Date: 7/1/2010

Setting The Pace for Sight
reflections
THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Setting The Pace for Sight

A desire to challenge my body and raise funds for charity inspired me to run the Boston Marathon

DEREK FEIFKE, O.D.,
BURLINGTON, MASS

As I listened to The Star Spangled Banner, goose bumps appeared on my arms. I turned my gaze upwards and watched three F15 jets roar through the sky. I glanced around at the tightly bunched group of people in my corral, and I breathed deeply, adrenaline coursing through my body. It was noon, April 17, 2001, and I was about to begin running my first Marathon — the Boston Marathon.

The gun sounded, and, my mind began to race with my body: Would I complete the grueling 26.2 miles? Had my training been sufficient? Would I fulfill my own expectations? Would I fulfill the expectations of those who had donated so generously to charity?

Jogging my memory

Having turned forty a year earlier, I felt an inexplicable urge to challenge my aging body. After much thought and soul searching, I made the decision to train for and run the Boston Marathon — arguably one of the most famous and challenging marathons in the world (and practically in my backyard). Once I had made the commitment to run, I also felt, at the time, that it would be even more gratifying if I could combine my running the Marathon with raising funds for a worthwhile cause.

As an optometrist, VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) (www.vosh.org) really resonated with me. The reason: VOSH's mission is to provide eye care to people throughout the world who can neither afford nor have the access to obtain such care.

I began soliciting donations through letters to friends, family and colleagues and by posting a letter in my practice reception room to inform patients of my fund raising and participation in the Marathon.

No pain, no gain

My body groaned and strained up the Marathon's hills; my pained muscles begging me to stop. Every time I felt as if I couldn't go on, however, an image of some poor person placing glasses on his face and seeing the world clearly for the first time appeared in my mind's eye, keeping my spirits up.

I crossed the finish line after three hours and 49 minutes. Dehydration, bloody, painful toes, exhaustion and cramps gripped almost every part of my body. I was spent. But before I knew it, feelings of exhilaration, relief and accomplishment overrode my physical discomfort. Yes, I was proud of myself for pushing my body to the limit, but I was also excited by the fact that my efforts would contribute to eye care for those less fortunate. When the finisher's medal was placed around my neck, I felt like I was floating.

Dr. Feifke running in the 2010 Boston Marathon this past April.

Running abroad

After completing the Marathon and subsequently meeting members of the New England VOSH Chapter, I joined them on my first mission trip to Nicaragua. I found the trip so rewarding, that I have since been on several missions. I served as New England Chapter president from 2007 to 2009, and I led my first mission to Guatemala last year.

Seeing first hand the desperate need for eye care that exists throughout the world has motivated me to continue my Marathon quest to raise money for VOSH. I have since completed thirteen Marathons, and I've raised more than $20,000 for the New England Chapter. As long as I can remain healthy and injury free, I hope to continue my running and raising funds for VOSH. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: July 2010