Friday, June 20, 2014

2300 Miles

Last weekend I had a decent long run. Decent means I ran all the hills and stopped only for a traffic light. That I felt okay afterwards. It was nowhere near a record run for me in terms of speed or distance, but it was my longest run in many, many months. And it was hard-won.

Last weekend, also, I discovered that since I began keeping track of my miles almost three years ago I have run more than 2300 miles. My serious running friends have covered that distance much faster, and probably many times over, but I am quite proud of the number. It, too, was hard-won.

Because 2013—I spent most of the year not getting enough air.

The first half of the year was marked by repeated cases of bronchitis, and me pushing myself—running, working, pushing-through, despite how I felt. I’ve had asthma since I was very young, and this is what I’m used to: you get a cold, it invariably settles in your lungs, makes you cough and wheeze. But life doesn’t stop for a cold, you just deal with it. I was simply never very athletic.

But then, life, and many years. A decision at 39 to make running part of my fight for health. The realization, as I got help for my children’s allergies and asthma, that I could get help for my own, as well.  I discovered what normal lung function felt like. It was beautiful. I had no idea.

So I ran. A friend challenged me to run a half-marathon with her and it sounded so unlike me I had to try. I heard about a trail half-marathon later in the year and it sounded crazy so I wanted to do that, too.

All those miles—there were a lot of difficult ones, but they were so good.

And then that first half of 2013. All the sickness. All of April and May, never a breath that brought quite enough air. I cut back on my running. I tried to get more rest. It was discouraging.

The last race I ran in was June 9th, 2013. A 10 mile race that I almost didn’t do because of my bad cough and because I was so discouraged I didn’t believe I could run 10 miles anymore. The night before, a friend texted me: another anonymous friend had registered me for the race, hoping I would be encouraged. I was. I ran. And it felt horrible, but I finished, and even brought home a medal. (One of the perks of living in a small town and showing up for small races is that you can finish 17th out of 19 but still bring home a silver because there were only three women in your age group. Pretty nice for someone who had never been very athletic.)

I woke up early the next morning sicker than I’ve ever been. Shaking uncontrollably, feverish, hands and feet pale and numb. Never enough air. Somewhere around 6:30 I woke Husband up to tell him I was going to the ER because I didn’t want to wait for a clinic to open in the afternoon. Looking back now, I realize how disconnected I felt from my body. I was surprised to be seen immediately when I told the receptionist at the front desk I was having trouble breathing. I was surprised when the nurse mentioned pneumonia, (“a raging case of pneumonia,” I believe were his exact words) and even more surprised when he asked me how I felt about being hospitalized.

The doctor made it clear he could hospitalize me but allowed me to go home. I spent most of the next 10 days in bed. Even with all the medication I was on, getting up to walk to the next room left me breathless, and when I spoke I had to pause every two or three words for air.

Recovery was long, but I eventually started running again, very slowly and only bits at a time. I let go of all my goals for the year except one: I wanted to run the trail half-marathon in October. It would be slow, less than I’d done the year before in every way, but I wanted to at least finish.

But no. In August, bronchitis. In September, bronchitis again. Followed by bad colds in October and November that held on for 2 or 3 weeks, each.

I spent the second half of 2013 trying to recover. Lungs tight, never a full breath. I monitored my sleep more closely, doled out my energy more carefully. Mostly I tried to find a way to attend to my family, my teaching, and my writing. If I felt a little like I disappeared when I got sick, I also felt like I disappeared while trying to get better. If I’ve spent most of my life dogged by the feeling that I was failing, that feeling has intensified over the last year.

It was months before I felt completely myself inside my body, months before my lungs felt my own again. A year later I cannot run the way I could. I’ve lost count of how many times I started over, because once I stopped getting sick I started hurting myself: a fall—extremely glamorous, really—while rollerskating with my girls, a strained quad, unresolved pain from before I got sick. And allergies have been so bad this spring that again for the last month my lungs have felt constantly tight. But Saturday I ran farther than I’ve run in 9 months. And then that discovery of how many miles I’ve logged in the 3-months-shy-of-3-years that I have been running. Slogging away at something does not feel like anything but slogging, but it still gets you someplace. Maybe I can leave discouragement behind for a while.

So this is what 2300 miles looks like—part of it victorious, part of it halting, labored, slowly accumulated. Half and half, now, in terms of time. I could tell you that’s what I expected, but no—I expected the sweat and long steep hills and the sheer discipline of it to be enough. What matters is that the miles accumulated, and this number I now get to hold on to has some heft to it. It makes me believe in change. It tells me I’m not done with this yet. 




Subscribe to Dreamer by Email

2 comments:

  1. Hmm. I tried to post here yesterday but it vanished. Let's try this again! I love this post even as I'm sitting here feeling my own lungs hurting in sympathy with yours. The story of your running is such a good reminder. . . day by day, step by step, one thousand words by one thousand words. Thank you for this. XO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try to remind myself that I have been through this process many times with violin, note by note through all those etude books and concertos. But it's so easy to lose perspective in the middle.

      Delete

I love hearing from you!