Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm a runner, I think.

I am training for a half-marathon in October. Whew. There. I said it out loud. I guess that makes it real now. And when I say “training” it’s important to define what I mean: I subscribed to “Runners World,” I have running clothes with me in the car at all times, I shelled out for a sweet pair of Sauconys, and my iPod is full of running mixes (I know, real runners don’t do iPods, but I like it). I ran a lot over the winter and early spring, doing the requisite Turkey Trot and Santa’s Run, then right when the weather got good and it was gorgeous to run outside, I developed a pain in my hip. I tried stretching more, running less, icing it more, applying heat, running through the pain, and nothing really changed (at least it didn’t get worse!).

So I finally went to the orthopedist and learned I had bursitis in my hip. Of course! I had that same problem about 7 years ago when I went all gung ho on golf. With a sudden increase in twisting and bending of certain joints, the “bursae” became irritated and enflamed. I’m not medical expert, but briefly, bursae little fluid filled sacs, akin to bubble wrap, serving to reduce friction between moving parts of the body (knee, elbow, hip, etc.).

Seven years ago, I fell in mad, serious love with a little magic pill (no not that one!) called Vioxx, which made all bad turn good. Then we learned that Vioxx itself was bad, not good (dang the FDA!), so I can’t “fix” the bursitis with it this year. Instead, I’m using an old-school drug – read “now-available-in-generic-so-the-pharma-companies-don’t-market-it” – called Diclofenac to heal this inflammation. It’s working, and the pain is nearly gone.

I’m testing out my stamina with a three-week race series on July 19, 26 and August 2. Hopefully the hip’ll hold up and my big bum will cross the finish line each time. A little nervous for the August 2 run, as it’s a 10k, my longest ever. But a half-marathon is more than double that 10k distance, so I guess it’s time to put up or shut up.

But why? Why did I start running? Why do I think I can do this? I’m the girl who doesn’t like to sweat. I’ve never really worked out in my life. In spite of an “athletic frame” (so they say), I’ve never meaningfully participated in any kind of organized sport in my life. So why me, why now?

My friend is on staff with a non-profit marathon organization. She needed volunteers to help at a Spring ’06 duathlon. For one morning, I could get up early and help out a little bit, right? So I stood there selling t-shirts and guarding the awards table (quietly grumbling to self that I should still be in bed!), and just became enamored with everything going on – the free massages, volunteers giving out bananas and bagels, the race coordinators on their walkie-talkies dealing with cars on our blocked-off streets, and later a rider who wiped out bad (she was okay). I had a bird’s-eye view of runners coming in, grabbing their bikes, and coming back in – it seemed – only minutes later to cross the finish line. First were the “real athletes,” rock hard bodies barely breaking a sweat, who seemed to all know or at least know of each other, in teams and pairs and singles, high-fiving and fist pumping, celebrating their achievement. Later, some dads and a few moms I know from the soccer field and around town, crossing that line, also with ease, and a look of accomplishment on their faces. There was a father-daughter pair, one waiting for the other so they could cross together, holding hands. There was the injured biker, limping across finally, with help from her husband, and collapsing in his arms at the end, with tears of relief and victory, probably some real pain too.

Everyone was so alive and there was a real sense of community, and goodness, and people who just belonged there. And they were a bunch of healthy folks let me tell ya. All this before 10:30 in the morning.

Now about this time in my life, I was in a crazy-intense job, getting out of bed every morning after a sleepless night to trudge to the office, partying too much on the weekends to ignore the details of the past week and the responsibilities of the coming week. The only thing that got me out of bed before 9am on a Saturday was an early soccer or football game – and even then, it was unshowered-wrapped-in-a-blanket-Diet-Coke-in-hand. I suffered from high blood pressure, gained about 50 pounds over an 8 year stretch (ouch, that hurts to even admit in writing!), and although outwardly I projected a happy smile all the time, on the inside I was in a dark place.

That spring morning was a real eye opener for me, but I still wasn’t thinking that someone like me would actually participate in a race. In the fall, I again volunteered for a marathon, and that was even cooler than the spring experience. I must’ve stood on that finish line cheering for three hours straight. The palms of my hands were even bruised from clapping so much. And this marathon is known for its celebration – tons of vendors, kids’ activities, huge organic smorgasbord for the runners, excellent (and well run) beer tent for grown ups, and plenty of port-a-potties. And again, I felt a real excitement for the running community, they just looked so dang cool, but never thought of myself as a runner – thinking “that’s for other people that I will support and encourage and have fun with, but that’s about it.”

Fast forward, I left my job for something much better suited to me, got my blood pressure somewhat under control with medication, and focused on my family and my life, and became a much more calm and loving person, still not working out at all, and still overweight, but mentally heading in the right direction. We went away to Cape Cod in July 07, and I had a conversation with a 69 year old man, the father of some friends. That morning he won first place in a 4.12 mile with a time of 33 minutes, and was proudly wearing his medal. I thought it was cute in a cute-for-an-old-guy kind of way, and frankly a little bit silly that he was wearing the medal, but after talking with him for a while, I realized that it really was a big accomplishment and he had something to be proud of (side note: I only WISH I had a medal right now!). He off-handedly said “you should run – I bet you’d like it” as we ended our conversation. Just two weeks later, he suffered a heart attack while out on a run, and died. No prior problems, no family history. It just happened.

It was shocking and so sad – too young!! And his words haunted me… “I bet you’d like it!” I found the next available race, an August 5k, and signed up, husband and kids too. We ran in honor of Mr. Hughes, and I ran to meet his challenge – “you should run.”

I didn’t train at all, and was nervous and scared as the big day approached. Hubby and kids took off immediately, and I stayed in the back of the pack the whole way. Coming into the home stretch, I was really doubting my sanity, man, and when I saw a shortcut off the race route that would take me back to the starting area, I almost took it. But there were three of us ladies passing each other back and forth in that last mile, and I just couldn’t chicken out if they were staying in it. Well folks, I MADE IT, choking back proud tears that last quarter mile. HOLEEE CRAP! I made it! My time was 44:+, but I did it.

That’s it; I was bit by the bug. I did an October 5k, and the previously mentioned Turkey Trot and Santa’s Run, this time with training. In fact, I started running in earnest following that August 5k, and haven’t really stopped, current injury notwithstanding.

By the way, my time in the 5k this past Saturday, the first in the 3 race series, was 33:20. More than 10 minutes better than the first race 11 months ago. I may not be taking the racing world by storm, but I’m loving my new-found health and sense of personal accomplishment.

See you on the starting line!

1 comment:

A Frugal Housewife - Jody said...

That is a great goal to have and I hope you have luck with the race.