Mott native pens book on community, perseverance and North Dakota

Perseverance seems to be the common theme in Melanie Carvell’s life. Now she’s ready to tell her story.

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Posted September 12, 2014

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor |

Perseverance seems to be the common theme in Melanie Carvell’s life. Now she’s ready to tell her story.

Born and raised in Mott she went on to receive her undergraduate degree in Physical Therapy from the University of North Dakota. From there she went overseas as her husband finished his education. After that she returned to the United States and settled in Bismarck, where she has worked at Sanford (formerly Medcenter One) for the last 30 years.

But her story starts in high school.

Trying out for her high school cheerleading team, she had one more task to perform for the tryout. She landed hard and injured herself. At that moment the severity of the injury didn’t seem bad, but after a little while it appeared to be extensive, and required an ambulance ride and bed rest for four days.

After she was a beginning, and given the clearance, she was able to walk out of bed with the assistance of a physical therapist and some crutches. She eventually was able to make it to the physical therapy gym.

“After you do ok there [working with the crutches], then they take you to the physical therapy gym, where of course you look around and you see this big fish bowl of people that are all working towards getting better and getting stronger,” Carvell said. “I kind of decided right then that I’d love to be able to do this.”

During her college years she was walking through the school’s memorial union and took a chance and signed up for the track and cross country team, a decision she had no idea would lead her to bigger things.

Placing near the end of the runners in her first meet, she was ready to give up, but a pep talk from the fastest runners on the team kept her going, something she said is incorporated into her book.

“That’s one of the major themes of the book, how even just a little bit of interest, or a kind word, or a confidence boost, or a pat on the back from someone else can send you in a direction that you never thought as possible,” Carvell said. “Never would I have dreamed that at that point, 10 years later I would be on a podium in Germany earning a bronze metal for the United States in triathlon.”

Carvell earned a bronze medal at the World Triathlon Championship and was 3rd place in her age group.

Carvell got into triathlons after her college career was completed; looking for an avenue for her competitive drive she went on to be a world class competitor.

The common themes that recur in the book are community, and perseverance. What she didn’t want to happen was for it to turn into a ‘how to book.’ She wanted it to be a book to help others make better decisions and take better care of themselves, or how we can help somebody else.

Carvell said she wants to inspire, not scare or scold.

Suffering from a congenital defect, Carvell finally had to bite the bullet and underwent an invasive back surgery. After rods, pins and a spinal fusion, Carvell was told that her competing  days were probably over.

“I went from being a world class triathlete to a mall walker,” Carvell said.

She decided to take her recovery time to start putting her thoughts and experiences onto paper.

“I really wanted to get those things down on paper before I forgot them,” Carvell said.

She included portions of her family’s heritage in the content of the book. Being a descendant of Germans from Russia, her own family history tells the story of overcoming obstacles and especially perseverance, something the majority of North Dakota residents have in their family histories.

She also touches on the fact that we are a product of where we came from, and by telling the story of her relatives hardships when they first came here, really shows that if they can overcome such difficult circumstances, we all can.

“Part of the book I wanted to honor was the stuff we came from” Carvell said. “I’m really proud of where I’m from, I’m really proud of western North Dakota.”

She credits her favorite place to run, down a dirt road, to her upbringing in Mott.

Recently she has been on a book signing tour, and she said that their response has been better than what she expected.

“Just beyond my wildest expectations,” Carvell said. “The community has really embraced the book.”

The title of the book is both a homage to her state, and a title she hopes will bring interest to her story.

“I wanted it to be a North Dakota book and I wanted it to tie into the theme of ‘let’s get outside and embrace this place,’ and I wanted it to kind of pique some interest of the reader,” Carvell said.

Her hope was that it might make people step outside and take in the state while at the same time bettering themselves. Understanding that you can still be active on a treadmill or an indoor machine, Carvell wanted to show people the greatness of doing those activities in the beauty of North Dakota, and how it can take care of both your physical and spiritual well being. She has heard the comment that ‘it’s much more than a running book,’ something she was hoping to accomplish.

One of her favorite stories is when she and her son were out for an early morning bike ride, and all of a sudden she looked over and in a fenced in piece of land, a group of horses were following alongside them.

“We were like the pack,” Carvell said.

Carvell will still continue to promote her book, but she has an even greater mission she’s hoping to accomplish.

“It’s really my mission to try to help people find a path to better wellness,” Carvell said.

Though she has used the release of her book primarily in recent months, she will continue to spread her message through various other avenues, including her profession and public speaking.

Some of her favorite feedback from the book has been readers who contact her with a photo or a few short words, tell her they’ve purchased a bike, or gone for a walk.

She didn’t want her book to be a scolding tool for people who aren’t active.

She wanted to inspire, and by the sound of some of her feedback and responses, she’s well on her way to accomplishing that.

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