Crawl If You Must

23 Jan

A few of you asked about my image on the “about me” page so I felt compelled to share with you a little bit of my story when it comes to running. Alright, fine, no one asked, but since I feel it would greatly help the context of some of my future planned posts, I wanted to share a little bit about my story anyway. Plus I have pictures, and pictures always make a post better, right? Right.

In 2008, my very best friend in the whole wide world was diagnosed with leukemia.

An image of the two of us at my June 2008 wedding.

It pained me in ways that I cannot express. That she was going through all this. Her struggle. That I couldn’t be by her side every step of the way. Unfortunately, treatment sent her to a hospital hours away. Thankfully, a very, very good hospital, but hours away nonetheless. So that Fall I decided that I would do all I could do: run for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) in her honor. With the help of my very generous family and friends, I raised a few thousand dollars and in January 2009, I ran the Disney World Half Marathon. It was only a half and yet it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. During the course of training I saw my primary care physician more times than I can count, a cardiologist, a hematologist, and a rheumatologist. At one point in time, my mom said to me that if I didn’t actually run this half that darn it if I wasn’t going to die trying. Of course, I didn’t. And really, all that I went through wasn’t even an inkling of what someone in Cameron’s position had to deal with on a DAILY BASIS.

I’m happy to report that she is now happy and healthy in remission and pursuing her doctorate just a few hours away from me. It’s so weird, because that distant life – the memories of her pain and struggle – now seem so close and yet so long ago. No words could ever fully quantify how appreciative I am for her health and well-being today. Everything she went through – and watching her fight her way along – was one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen.

And now back to the half marathon. In training with LLS, I was lucky enough to be given a coach and supplied with a vast number of teammates also running for the cause. The support was amazing, the advice was even better. I was unlucky in the respect that I happened to land on a team of individuals who all had backgrounds in running and/or athletics. These people were fast.* Though the coaches were kind and teammates would always run back for me, I found myself more and more often training on my own. I enjoyed the alone time. I liked the time to think. The downside? I didn’t run as frequently or as far as I should have. I used my newly acquired iPod with Nike+ to monitor my time and distances. And, by race day, my longest run had been 10 miles. Let me clarify, 10 very, very slow miles. Not so bad, but that’s still an extra three miles I was hoping that adrenaline would allow me to tack on.

As I began my race, I started my Nike+ so I could keep track of my timing as I went along. Rounding out the first mile, I noticed that my iPod informed me I’d hit a mile a bit before the mile marker appeared. Weird, but I assumed it had to do with my starting place in the waves.** As I rounded the bend and my iPod kindly notified me that I’d run two miles, the mile marker was even farther away. By three miles? I couldn’t even see it. It occurred to me that something was wrong. Very wrong. As I continued to run I started thinking of what could be wrong. Was I zigzagging too much? Was the course off kilter or something? Then it hit me: I never actually calibrated my iPod. So… that 10 miles that I had run? Was really like seven, at most. On race day, I tacked on SIX MILES FARTHER than I had ever run before.

At mile 6, I lost sensation in my feet. Looking back on it, perhaps that was a good thing. By mile 8, I had to go to the bathroom so badly I thought I was going to explode. Thankfully, I found a port-o-potty without a line before I did so. By mile 10, my hands swelled up so badly that I couldn’t bend my fingers. I ran the next mile with my hands in the air. Kid you not. This is where the fated words of my LLS coach began playing on repeat in my head, almost like a broken record. Fellow runners will probably find this mantra familiar, as it is frequently found plastered on many track team shirts and uttered by many coaches, I’m sure:

Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never, ever give up.

And so I didn’t. By 13.1 miles, my legs felt like jello. I believe my iPod ready something like 17 miles at that point. I found my family and wanted to collapse. Thankfully, I didn’t. As we walked away from the facility, my father said to me, “So, be honest, will you ever do something like this again?” And, even with all of that, my response? Definitely.

Post-race. Barely able to stand  – though I look in much better shape than I felt.

Finally on the bus on the way back to our hotel. I’m still holding up the medal in pride, apparently.

Now it’s been two years and I’ve yet to run another. But, well, that’s where the story is just getting started, I suppose…

*****

*Note: This isn’t necessarily common for these types of charity teams, but I happened to live in a youthful, health-conscious college town.

**Non-runners note: “Waves” are the groups that get released since you can’t have thousands of people all start running at once. Everyone wears or attaches time chips so their official times don’t actually start until they cross the start platform, but they begin running usually a bit before that.

 

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