Dear determined woman,
It’s fun to stand near the finish line of a race to watch that magic moment when each runner steps over the line to success. I’m not exactly sure why this is so, but it’s fun to clap and holler for each one, whether you know them or not.
It’s also heartwarming to watch runners like eleven year old Matt Woodrum (see video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmaDtbQ1nuA) finish his race despite the limitations of cerebral palsy. He’s a rebel of sorts, showing us that he still has the courage to participate; and even if he does not win, for that moment, he wins over his disease.
Runners have their own stories, their own motivations for running. One of my former students from Minnesota runs half marathons and I wondered why she got into running as an adult. This is what she told me:
Why I Run
by Yvette Grey
I was recently asked to answer the question, “Why do I run half marathons?” The answer to that question has changed dramatically since I began running in and completing my first half marathon in 2010. At that time, I had participated in a few charity 5k runs and even competed in two sprint triathlons.
Having a few of these charity runs and sprint triathlons under my belt, I decided that I would set my sights on another challenge. I decided to run a Women’s-Only Half Marathon. With the support of my husband, I trained for 12-weeks, running 5 days a week.
I finished that first half marathon in 2:34:49. I was proud of my accomplishment. While I didn’t make running my go-to activity, I would continue training every summer to run this event in the three years that followed. At that time, running was just a way to keep active.
In May of 2011, I developed a weird sensation in my feet that I can only describe as the feeling of walking barefoot on smooth river rocks. The “lumpiness” I felt in both of my feet was both uncomfortable and painful. I remember the limp in my walk and the tears that followed because some days, the pain was excruciating. In the weeks that followed, the pain subsided and I resumed my inconsistent short runs.
In August 2011, I began having numbness, tingling, and pain from my elbows to my fingertips in both arms. After numerous visits to my physician, x-rays, lab work, visits to a neurologist, and MRIs, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
I will never forget sitting in the doctors office being given the news and my husbands immediate follow-up question: “What is her life expectancy?” My life expectancy? Really? Being in my mid-30s, was my mortality really up for discussion?
After reassurance from the doctor and some quick online research, we deduced that MS would not be the “thing” that kills me— phew! It could be the car ride home that day or a fall from a ladder. Heck, being struck by lightning were better odds.
I remember thinking, I have a husband, two kids, a successful career— why me? I still don’t know why me. Soon after my diagnosis and at the urging of my doctor, I started receiving my treatments that consisted of daily injections. I was literally a walking pin cushion. It sucked!
The side effect of the shots caused a “breakdown of my fat cells” at the injection site. Sounds great, right? If I could just prick myself everywhere. Unfortunately, the end result was skin indentions, as if I, like other women, didn’t already suffer from some sort of “dimpling” somewhere on their body. Now, I just had some more of them and they wouldn’t be going anywhere—no matter how much “fat” I lost.
Over the next three years, I continued my injections, occasional training, running the yearly half marathons.
In November 2014, something inside me just “clicked.” I decided to take charge of my body, which did not include those awful injections. So with a bit of soul searching, I quit! I was done.
Against my doctor’s and my family’s recommendations, I was willing to play “Russian Roulette” with this disease; however, I wasn’t going down without a fight—a fight my way and without medication. I may have MS, but I am going to have MS on my terms.
My husband’s “What is her life expectancy?” question resonates often in my head and I replay it from time to time. I’m not going to die from this, we all know this now, and I’m certainly not going to let it run my life.
I started to be more conscious of my food intake and began working out at home six days a week. I lost 25 pounds. At 41, I was suddenly in the best shape of my entire life.
I’m fortunate that my symptoms have not gotten any worse. My yearly MRI scans remain unchanged. I still go to bed every night wondering what new symptom tomorrow may bring. I’m a realist and know that one day, my body won’t work the way it used to. I wake up some mornings, able to fight through aches and pains in my arms and legs; while other days I just can’t muster the mind-over-matter power to workout or run.
Four years later, the answer to “Why do I run half marathons?” has changed. I don’t run them because I’m the fastest runner or because running is fun. I could easily fall into the trap of feeling sorry for myself and letting society make me think the best thing for me is medication.
Instead, I run half marathons because today I can run and maybe tomorrow I won’t be able to. As long as my body will let me, I will be active and keep moving forward.
The race is a physical metaphor for the abstract journey our lives take. Like a race, we get up each day, (sometimes, like Yvette, with pain). We rush out the door, and we’re constantly running, running.
But unlike a race, most days we can’t judge how we’re doing or if we’re getting anywhere. We may never know how we’ve done, and at the end of the day, there is no cheering crowd. The cheering needs to come from within.
Yvette inspires us to look at our lives realistically and to applaud our own efforts when we take charge of the direction and pace of our life.
Live on your terms!
May your self-trust build confidence,