When you’ve walked for over 70 miles in a span for 48 hours, pain is insurmountable. Aaron Lai took 15 ibuprofen pills on the final day of his “Walk for Tyler Trent” to combat the pain and make it to Bloomington for the Purdue-Indiana basketball game.
Not only did he walk to raise awareness for his grandfather and Trent, he did it to raise money for Tyler Trent’s Cancer Research Endowment at the Purdue Center for Cancer Research, which matches all donations.
But it was Tyler Trent and Lai’s grandfather who really gave him the inspiration to keep walking.
On day one, Lai, a junior in the College of Education, walked 33 miles. On day two, he walked 31.
36 more to go. Not too hard, right?
Lai’s walking manager — his brother — kept him updated on his progress and his estimated arrival time. Even before his last day was halfway over, Lai realized that he would need to pick up the pace if he wanted to make it there by the 7 p.m. tip-off.
That’s when Lai asked his brother how fast he would need to go to make it to Bloomington on time.
He had to keep a pace of 18 minutes per mile, or 3.3 miles per hour.
Lai was shocked by the pace he had to keep and couldn’t fathom finishing, let alone going any faster. He described the pain as “way worse” than walking on pins and needles, more comparable to hot coals.
However, he knew that he had to keep going to make it in time. So during the 78th mile, he began running at an 8:40 pace, or 6.9 miles per hour.
Lai didn’t come into the walk 100 percent ready to go. He pulled his hamstring the Friday before, which hampered his progress the entire time. He even thought he might pull his other hamstring during the walk. The pain was so tremendous, he said that’s when he took the extreme amount of ibuprofen pills.
With five miles remaining, he was scheduled to arrive five minutes after the game started. His Delta Chi fraternity brothers were scheduled to give him a “re-supply” of things that he could carry with him in his backpack, like food, water and dry shoes. On the last scheduled visit from a brother, he instead gave his brother the heavy pack to lighten up the run.
The lesser weight helped, but the pain still increased with the force of running.
Even in those last five miles, Lai’s app tracked him running a 10-minute mile, something he couldn’t believe. Many Americans probably couldn’t do that on any given day, especially after walking 95 miles the previous two-and-a-half days.
But it was mind over matter.
Lai’s Instagram and Twitter direct messages were filled with inspirational messages from people who he’d never met, sending him words of encouragement to keep going.
He knew he had to finish the walk. He questioned himself and his tenacity multiple times the last day. Then he asked himself, “Why am I doing this?”
“I’m doing this for Tyler Trent and my grandfather,” Lai told himself. “I have to keep fighting like they did.”
When he got to Bloomington, fans couldn’t have been more supportive. They were honking in support as he approached Assembly Hall. People walking to the game were cheering for him as he ran by.
For a few hours before the rivalry game, Lai brought two fan bases together to remember someone who brought a nation together.
That is also where he met the Trent family, who he was humbled by.
“To know his legacy is living on and continuing to inspire people even after his passing, words are inadequate. They really are,” Kelly Trent, Tyler’s mother, told CBS4 Indy.
As for the game, Lai couldn’t believe the finish: sophomore center Matt Haarms’ tip-in with 3.2 seconds remaining to take a 2-point lead and seal the victory for the Boilermakers.