WARSAW — Adapt. Overcome. Live. When it comes to pursuing a dream while facing statements like “You can’t do that” or “That’s impossible for you,” adapting, overcoming, and living life to the fullest is Joe Secrist’s motto.
Secrist, who is legally blind, has held many titles in his lifetime, from skydiving instructor and martial artist to magician and EMT. Now, the Mentone man, who is the owner of Niff-Tone Distributors, has returned to running, an activity he enjoyed in high school and college but had to step away from due to injuries.
“A lot of the training [for races] is also mental,” said Secrist. “It’s a lot of telling yourself that you can always keep going.”
Since getting back into running about seven years ago, Secrist has participated in hundreds of races but has recently begun to participate in triathlons. In the biking and swimming portions of the races, Secrist teams up with Barb Martz, the executive director of the MyTeam Triumph Northern Indiana Chapter.
“In the swimming part, we are tethered together and for biking, we ride a tandem bike,” said Secrist. “We’ve competed in six short triathlons this year and we also did a 70.3-mile Ironman.”
Through running, Secrist has also been able to help others by volunteering with MTT, an athletic ride-along program created for those with disabilities who would typically not be able to participate in races or triathlons. With MTT, Secrist has volunteered as an “angel,” the title given to runners who push the person with a disability through the race in a chair.
“It’s a phenomenal program,” said Secrist. “It’s very rewarding. I’ve pushed people from the ages of five up to someone in their mid-70s. To see the excitement on people’s faces when they cross the finish line is such a rewarding thing. For a lot of these parents who attend these races, seeing their kids being able to do a race is huge to them. It’s something that they thought they’d never see.”
Those who are interested in volunteering or helping the MyTeam Triumph Northern Indiana Chapter can learn more information about the organization through its website or Facebook page.
“You don’t have to necessarily be a runner, because we always need support staff at races,” said Secrist. “There’s all kinds of ways to get involved. We do so much locally here too and we want to get some more programs going here.”
When it comes to motivators, Secrist credits Martz, as well as his high school wrestling and track coach, with impacting him as an athlete. But Secrist said his top motivator is to help others.
“My motivation is helping other people,” said Secrist. “That’s who I am. Somebody asked me one time, ‘Well, why do you push somebody in a race? You can run these races yourself.’ Yes, I can. But I’ve been there and I’ve stood on the podium and I loved it at the time, but I don’t need to win the race right now. For me, it’s more important for me to give others the opportunity to do that.”
Secrist said he enjoys helping people achieve their dreams and encourages others to always take any opportunity they can to help others who feel discouraged from doing something.
“If there’s a reason that you can’t do something, look at why you can’t do it,” said Secrist. “What can you do to adapt that? Overcome any obstacles that might be in your way and just go do it. There’s always things that you can do. You may not be able to get the exact job you want in life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love the job you do get.”