“If I am being honest, I used to hate running. Even when I was a child in PE class at school, I would try and find ways out of participating in the dreaded ‘mile run’. I never played sports that involved running and I used to laugh at the thought of myself ever signing up for a race. Seeing joggers out in the early morning hours would always make me wonder about their sanity. I would think to myself ‘Who in their right mind would leave their nice, warm bed at this hour to go outside and RUN?’. I still think these thoughts occasionally but now they are directed at myself as I turn off the alarm clock and sneak in the bathroom to quietly put on my running clothes before hitting the treadmill. Some mornings, I ask myself repeatedly am I sure that I want to do this?
The answer is always yes. However, becoming a runner was not something that happened to me overnight. And still today, even with a wall of medals and bibs from completing 2 half marathons, 4 10Ks and countless 5Ks, I still feel like a bit of a fraud describing myself as a runner. It all started for me in the fall of 2012. I had seen a video online about Team GP2C running the Disney Princess Half. Something sparked inside me and I felt driven to join the team. Thinking back, I know that what attracted me was being a part of the group, fundraising as a part of a team, and making friendships. It all looked so inspiring. Unfortunately for me, being on the team also meant that I needed to start learning how to run. So, I started my training slowly, trying the Couch to 5K program. Let me be honest- it was brutal at first. It was supposed to take 9 weeks to complete, but I took many more as I repeated each week in the beginning a few times because I felt like there was no way I was ready to advance. At times, I could not imagine completing even a 5K, never mind a half marathon. There were a few times I wanted to quit, but I kept going by registering myself for my first 5K and having a running buddy. I learned how to use intervals and stopped feeling guilty if I needed to walk some. I completed my first race in December of that year and from then on, I was hooked. The atmosphere and the energy of all the people at the race was contagious! I loved the sense of camaraderie I felt with other runners around me supporting one another as we ran and onlookers cheering us on. I loved the silly shirts and signs along the course that made the event seem so positive and healthy.
I am still hooked on the races and as I ran a few more of them I decided to try to run even further. My first Team GP2C race was the 10K. This seemed like a small and reasonable step towards my goal of completing the half. However, standing in the corral at 5 am and knowing that the furthest I had ever run while training was only 4.7 miles, I was worried. Those balloon ladies-they get into your head! I did it though, and it made me realize that it didn’t matter how fast I ran, or how much I walked, that as long as I just kept going, I would make it across the finish line.
My biggest obstacle while running, and I think this is true with most runners, is my mind. It will not turn off. When I started training at first, the issues were physical. First, I was out of breath. That passed after a few weeks and then I felt like my legs were tired. Soon, that pain ended and all I was left with was my mind- the constant self-talk of doubting myself and focusing on how hot it was or how much stuff I had to do in the house or how much I wanted to just stop running. I knew that in order to push up my distance I had to distract myself. First, I got a piece of black electrical tape and covered the time and distance display on my treadmill. I can pull it up and peek when I am done with my work out, but if I can see the numbers ticking slowly away it makes me crazy. To keep myself on track, I use an interval tracker that beeps to let me know when I should run and when I should walk. I predetermine what I want to do for that training session and try my best to not deviate from it. As I run I listen to audio books as a way to keep my mind occupied. I used to listen to music, but I found that audio books work better for me. I even use them during races if it is a longer distance and I feel like I will be pushing myself. When I completed my first half, I listened to the last 2+ hours of the Martian and was hanging on every word!
I know that I want to run races. I love the feeling of crossing the finish line. I love the way I feel when I am done with my training for the day. I feel like I have accomplished something. I feel proud of myself. And now, as a part of Team GP2C, I feel like I have in some way contributed to fighting Rett Syndrome. Having the race to train for, I feel like I am doing something every day to help my daughter. I hate seeing her struggles and the daily issues that we face. I want so badly for meaningful treatment or cure to be available for us all. On the treadmill, I work off that anger and frustration. On Facebook, I share my honest struggles with running and training along with the pain and grief that Rett Syndrome never fails to provide. I focus on planning fundraisers and raising donations. I have found that people rarely just give money to help with a cause. You have to do something- a walk, a race, an event- for them to support. My friends and family know that I do this race every year now. They anticipate it and most support me yearly. For the Rett Community, it seems like every year, raising money becomes more and more important. This year, being the Year of the Trial, fills me with a new and renewed sense of purpose as a member of Team GP2C.
In February of next year, I will be running another 10K with Team GP2C beside many amazing people who have become my friends. I look forward to a chance to catch up with them each year and see their families. I did finally run the half marathon, two times in fact! But for me, I think the 10K is the perfect distance. I have my eye on completing the Fairy Tale Challenge one day, but I haven’t quite worked up my nerve to register for that one yet. Last year, my Rett daughter Allison and I completed the Mickey Mile during the children’s races. She enjoyed being a part of the weekend’s festivities and I loved walking her across the finish line with Mickey Mouse. Unfortunately, she aged out of that race since she turned 14 in April. One day I hope to have her complete the 5K with me.
As I push into middle age, sometimes I wonder how long I will keep running. One look at my daughter gives me the answer- until she can!”
#UntilTheyCan #TeamGP2C #RiseAboveRett