Yeah, yeah. I’m supposed to be writing this from the warmth of Orlando, Florida. Hot. Sweaty. Fresh from a 13.1 mile run. Dressed as the sassy, “ain’t gonna take no -ish” Lilo, and rocking a finisher’s medal.
Instead, my butt is wet from falling — yet again — into the snow bank as I try to squeeze my size 16 body through the 1/2 inch space between my car and the wall of terror (aka the aforementioned snow bank). Instead of red New Balance runners, I’m decked in two pairs of Smart Wool socks (stolen from my husband who, this very morning, said, “Anyone seen my Smart Wool socks?”) and a pair of winter boots that have seen more ice than Tonya Harding.
This weekend was supposed to be Half-Marathon weekend. Well, it IS half-marathon weekend, I’m just not there running it. You’re welcome for that $300 registration fee, Disney. Don’t spend it all in one place.
Back in July 2014, when the warmth was coming from the sun and not from my electric heaters, I had registered for the Walt Disney World Princess Half-Marathon. I was feeling amazing — running 5x a week and increasing my mileage up to 10 miles on a long run. I got to that point where I craved running. I looked forward to getting out there just as the sun was peeking through the darkness and watched as the sky changed from dark to a graffiti and then to blue. I loved the feel of sweat stinging my eyes, of peeling off my soaked clothing, and of the soreness of the next morning as I began another run.
While running was physical, it was also an emotional symbol of how far I had come. Years prior, I had recovered from a bilateral mastectomy. And, in January 2014, I had completed my precancerous journey and underwent a bilateral oophorectomy as a preventative measure for ovarian cancer. Soon after that surgery, my body began to age. I went into surgical menopause and felt my energy decrease.
Running was my way of fighting back. Running was my way of moving further and further from premature aging. Running was my way of chasing down my health. Running made me feel powerful, clear, and open-minded.
In September 2014, I began to bleed. Mildly at first, but quickly the bleeding progressed into unmanageable proportions. I went to doctors who tried to diagnose the bleeding through invasive tests, changing medications, and even a surgical procedure to strip my uterus of tissue. None of those helped, and they in fact, left me feeling helpless, confused, and frustrated.
At first, I ran through the bleeding. But, soon, I couldn’t be more than a minute away from a bathroom or I’d risk the danger of having an accident. And, those came many times. The unpredictable bleeding got so bad that I began to carry around a bag with a change of clothing — which I used a few times.
Whatever you are imagining about this experience, I promise you, multiply it by 2 and you’ll come close to what it was like.
I stopped running.
And, while we are all complaining about the snow here in Boston, I have secretly believed that Mother Nature was being kind to me in the way that she couldn’t. Seven feet of snow, I believe, is Mother Nature’s way of telling me that this running adventure was nothing I could control. She punished by body, but made it easier to accept.
I’m quite certain that, even if I was not going through these medical issues, I would have chosen to not train in this weather. I’m simply just not tough enough to go out in -2 degree weather, single lane roadways, and slippery conditions.
Mother Nature gave me a way out. We sisters take care of each other.
Just this morning, as I drove through yet another snow shower, I saw a bright orange jacket up ahead. A runner. On the road, braving the cold, wet, snowy conditions. In my car, I was at the top of the hill just as the runner was making his way up.
Instinctively, without any oncoming traffic on the other side, I moved all the way over, giving the runner plenty of room not only to swing his arms but also to feel safe sharing the road.
The car in front of me did not.
The car in front of me barely moved over. The car in front of me splashed into a puddle and passed the runner. The car in front of me showered the runner with cold, dirty, freezing water.
And the runner kept running.
As I drove by, the runner waved to me. Smiling. And, I started to cry.
I wanted that feeling — that “nothing can stop me” feeling. That runner’s high. That runner’s determination. That runner’s discipline.
And I remembered that we are all running versions of our own half-marathon every single day. For some of us, it’s physical.
For others, it’s a battle of mental toughness even when you want to give up and cry.
Peace, love, and running on,