One year ago exactly, I had an emotional reunion with running. I had taken a break, as I have done many times, only this one was longer. Life just seemed to get in the way: kids, husband, health issues, secret rendezvous to fast food establishments (yes, you read that right, shameful) and of course, lack of motivation. I knew I had to do something when none of my clothing fit and my doctor was like: ummmm, not really the direction I wanted you to take, stop putting food in your mouth. My doctor and I have been old friends since I was fifteen and diagnosed with my heart condition and he knows me well enough to admit that sometimes the blunt way is the only way. And although the idea of me running has always made him slightly uncomfortable, he was willing to let me do anything to shave some weight off. My first run was with Ms. Casey and it was somewhere in the vicinity of 1.5, maybe 2 miles. There was walking involved, which was fine. We both needed baby steps and I wasn’t trying to push it. I remember feeling accomplished that first time. I had done it, I had hit the pavement once again and it felt so good I wanted it to be a regular thing. There was a lot of fear involved, there always has been. In the back of my mind I am always wrestling with my mortality. How do you balance being told you can’t or shouldn’t run with absolutely loving to run? And with always loving to run. The year I was diagnosed was the year I joined Cross Country and found running. Being told I had to turn my back on it felt like a knife to the heart and since then I’ve being practicing this sport sort of in secret, always running more than I admit to the medical team that takes such great care of me. I’m always trying to push the limits until they scold me and tell me to back off. Then I abandon it for a period of time, letting the whisper silence somewhere deep inside.
This time, I really wanted it to be different. I wanted the chance to finally do it out in the open, with all the eyes watching. I wanted my friends and my family, as well as my doctor to be comfortable with my choice. But more importantly, I wanted to prove to myself that I could still do it and that my spirit could out run, literally, my heart. I wanted this to be a life long change, where I wouldn’t feel like I had to banish running just to appease those around me. So, my doctor and I had a chat and I agreed to shave off thirty pounds and to run at a careful pace and build over a very long extended period of time. I had no plan in mind. Returning to the half marathon wasn’t even a concept in my head. I didn’t even think it was an option. I just wanted to run, any distance and feel healthy. So two ladies and I set out 3 days a week in the early hours of the morning and I learned to lean on them in a way I never thought I would lean on anyone while running. I have always been a solo girl. But these ladies beside me gave me confidence. I knew if anything happened, they would be there and I knew they wouldn’t allow me to go too hard because they were also building. That support, while never spoken out loud, is the reason why I am sitting here today after completing this half marathon. They paced me the whole way, even when we stopped running together. The idea of them has taught me how to slow down, even when alone, and be cautious with my body. No one else, in this lifetime, has ever done that.
When the weight started to come off, I could feel the itch to go longer. And I did. Seven mile to eight mile runs became the norm and I finally declared to the world, that I was going to run a half marathon again. My doctor, at every visit, ran his tests and checked me out, and every time said in a shocking manner: “Everything looks good.” until he finally said when all the weight came off: “I’ve never seen your heart so strong.” Which to me meant, go for it. I picked the run I felt the best about which was Boston’s Run to Remember, not knowing at the time what that race would ultimately become for the city of Boston, and signed up. My training was bumpy, I had great days, terrible days and days where I wanted to walk away. My body felt tired, sometimes my breathing was labored, I had one trip to the emergency room where I really got myself nervous but in the end, everything was fine. When I wanted to leave running again, I joined a new running group and one very inspiring chick got me to love a really long ten-mile run. I allowed myself to feel everything, to be vulnerable and I taught myself to listen to my body well. I changed my eating dramatically and watched my body respond. Truthfully, I have never felt better. And come race day on Sunday I was nervous but I knew my heart was in it with me and where it lacked, my spirit would take over. That morning I kissed my husband and my kids, just in case something went wrong, I lined up with the other runners and I looked up at the sky, to all those above me and said, “I’m ready.”
The miles themselves were brilliant, each and every one. I took it easy because I wanted to take it all in. Those moments are priceless to me. It was a feeling I had longed for and I finally had it back. The finish line, looked every bit as good as I had remembered and the metal was just as beautiful. In one year, I had learned to run again, like I did when there were no strings attached and it felt fantastic. I’m not saying there won’t be glitches along the way, the bumps are always present, my doctor may say, this is the end someday but for right now, while sitting here, I have it back. Like something I lost and suddenly found. That thing. That thing, that little tiny thing, that keeps every runner moving. I have it in my hands. And it’s like we didn’t skip a beat. For months I have been speaking of “that moment in the sun.” Well, ladies and gentleman, I had it. Finally.
Here’s to many miles for me and of course, for all of you.