I want to share something I wrote one year ago. As I read this again, I can’t believe how much my feelings have changed for the sport of running. I have always felt fortunate to be able to run but didn’t love the act of running. Today, I can say I really LOVE to run. I feel more fortunate than ever to be able to run.
I don’t love to run. I love to say I am a runner. I have never gotten a runner’s high. I would really like to experience that someday. My running consists of a few runs a week varied in length and intensity. I started running for exercise a few years ago. In 2009, I ran my first 5k. In 2010, I decided I was going to run five 5k’s. In 2011, I was going to shoot for longer races. What actually happened was very different.
I ran one 5k in June 2011. It happened to be the GE 5k for the Petit Foundation. As I was running in that race, I couldn’t help but think about that terrible story and be thankful for my life and my family. I was also thankful that I could participate and help in some small way. You never know what the next minute will bring. I ran because I could.
In July 2011, my husband and I and our three kids were in Wisconsin visiting my parents. I grew up there and we go back every summer for a couple of weeks to visit. I grew up on a lake and have been waterskiing since I was a kid and love to do it when we are there. It makes me feel young again and not like a 46 year old mom with 3 kids. My kids also think it is pretty cool that I can slalom. I had told my husband I wanted to slalom ski everyday that we were there that trip. On July 17, my husband and I went for a nice run and then he was scheduled to golf with my dad. In order to ski everyday, I needed to go waterskiing right after the run. My husband and my dad were the only ones who could drive the boat, and they wouldn’t be home until after dark. My legs were a little tired but I really wanted to waterski. I had a gut feeling that it might not be a good idea but I did it anyway.
Fast forward 20 minutes and I was slaloming and having a blast! I cut across the wake, caught my ski the wrong way and fell really hard. My right leg was still in the ski and my leg was pushed up really far. Far enough to tear my hamstring from the bone. (I didn’t find that out until much later) Well, at that point I was in a ton of pain. I could walk (barely) and move around so I didn’t think anything was broken. No more water skiing for me that vacation. So much for my goal.
I lived with pain in my leg and lower back until that September when I decided to try physical therapy. This was self prescribed. I had not seen a doctor. I was trying to cut out the middle man. Not so smart. I went to physical therapy a few times and my leg and foot went numb. I stopped going to physical therapy. I still didn’t go to the doctor. Not so smart again. I attended a conference in SanFrancisco later that month and asked for advice from a doctor friend. I explained to him what had happened. He suggested taking a high dose of Aleve for a couple of weeks to reduce the inflammation. I forgot to mention that I have Ulcerative Colitis. I was in remission until I started taking a bunch of Aleve. Not so good for the gut. Definitely made my leg feel better but I had a flare up of my colitis. This led to prednisone and other meds for that. What a mess! I did go to my GI doctor for help with my colitis. Finally, a good decision. The hamstring issues got put on hold while I dealt with my colitis. It was now October and I had not run since July 17.
I was scheduled to run a 5k with my sister in Minnesota that October. My husband was running in the Twin Cities Marathon that weekend as well. My whole family flew to Minnesota for the races. Prior to going, I had decided that running this 5k was not going to happen. I had not run since July 17 and I was still in pain and couldn’t imagine running when I couldn’t walk any real distance without pain. We got to Minnesota and were so excited to see my sister and her family. We went to the Expo for the packet pickup and at that moment I decided I was going to run that race. I thought to myself I did not fly all the way here to not run. I also remember thinking that I could run and that the pain was more mental than physical. I ran the next day and it was more of a walk/run. I did it but my right leg went numb after mile 1 and it felt like my foot was sort of flopping around. Not so smart. We had a great rest of weekend though. My husband ran the marathon and we got to spend time with my sister and her family.
We got back to CT and I finally made a doctor’s appointment. It was difficult to find the right doctor to go to because I didn’t know what was wrong. I saw the first doctor and he ordered an MRI of my lower back which showed nothing but the doctor suggested cortisone injections into my lower back. I had heard that these were very painful so I was not rushing into getting those. My gut feeling on getting the injections was to not get the injections. There was no guarantee the pain would go away and it just didn’t seem like that was the issue. I saw a second doctor and he ordered an MRI of my leg. Bingo! The MRI showed a torn hamstring from my pelvis. It was now November. Although, I had a diagnosis, there was nothing he could do. There was months of scar tissue that had formed in the healing process. The scar tissue had limited the flexibility of my leg and made running painful. That doctor prescribed physical therapy which helped.
Bring on 2012. I spent most of the year bummed out about my leg. Instead of doing other types of exercise, I used my injury as an excuse. I ran one 5k because my 8 year old son was running it, and I was sure I could keep up with him. Looking back on this, I had so many alternatives but chose not to take them. Lesson learned.
2013 has been a great year. I am feeling better after lots of stretching. It is not perfect and probably never will be, but it is better than it was. In honor of turning 46, I decided this is the year I was going to try different types of races and longer races. Up to this point, I had never run farther than 3.1 miles. I signed up for a 10k and started training on my 46th birthday. The 10k happened to be on March 16th and my birthday is on March 3rd. I am not really a long term planner- can you tell. I decided to go with the run/walk method. I had heard great things about it. Faster run times by giving your legs a little break. I went with the 3 minute run/1 minute walk. I finished the race and it was an awesome feeling. We all (my husband and 3 kids) signed up for the Sandy Hook 5k, Simsbury River Run 5k and then the Iron Horse 5k.
In the meantime, I started coaching the No Boundaries program at Fleet Feet. Me, a coach for people running their first 5k or coming back to run a 5k after a long break. This could not have happened at a more perfect time in my life. I love to encourage people and listen to stories about their lives. Running at a comfortable pace and talking to great people – it was so fun! We were asked to come up with a reason why we run. I racked my brain to think of something witty and I came up with, “I run because I can” I shared that sentiment with a woman in my training group that day. She thought it was so simple but so true. I can’t tell you how many times I have been out running and have seen people not able to run for a variety of reasons and thought to myself how lucky am I. I can run!
I was on a roll so I signed up for a duathalon, the Biggest Loser 15k in Killington, VT and the Disney Wine & Dine half marathon. The duathalon was a great experience. I did it with my sister over the summer in Wisconsin. It was fun to combine running and biking and I realized I like riding a bike. So much easier than running! The 15k was good but challenging. Mile 7 and 8 are up the access road to Killington. Who designs a course with a 2 mile uphill on mile 7. Come on- really – is this a joke? 15k completed – Half marathon here I come. I decided to run the Hartford Half Marathon as a primer for the race in Disney. As I was running last weekend in my first half marathon, I took the time to look around at all of the people I was with as well as the spectators. I couldn’t help but think how lucky am I? I am running. Don’t get me wrong, I was also thinking OMG I can’t believe I am running 13.1 miles. The overwhelming feeling of joy and the sense of accomplishment were pretty fantastic. As long as I am able, I will run because I can.
Last Sunday, I completed my last long training run of 20 miles. Words cannot describe the feeling I had when I was done. At mile 17.5, my oldest joined me to finish and we talked about how I had injured my hamstring 3 years ago. As you read above, after than injury I wasn’t even able to run a 5k. Now, I am in the final weeks of preparing to run my first full marathon. I want to express that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. It takes hard work and dedication but we all have it in us!