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Why Run? My Story...

Friday, April 29, 2011
Sorry for the duplication if you read both this blog and Our Cups Runneth Over, but I had to post this on both blogs. All of you that have been here, reading and supporting me over the past year... I love you. Thank you for always being there. :) 

It is incredible how much life can change in just one little year.

Last year, at this time, I couldn’t run up the block without being winded. Now, I’m preparing for my first half marathon (13.1 miles) in Nashville, Tennessee TOMORROW.
My favorite question that people ask me is “why?” You know, why run? Why run that far? Why run at all? Why run?

It’s not an easy question to answer. It takes a lot of explaining to do. And, typically, I don’t bother going through it all with people, because it would take a LONG time. Most of the time, when people ask me why I run, I answer with something like, “I dunno… I just started doing it and loved it… and kept running,” or “I love it because it’s my time away from everything else,” or “I run because I can… and one day I probably won’t be able to.”

All of those short little quips of answers come from a bigger story… they are small indicators of the real reason that I run… that I LOVE to run so much. Yes, that’s the red flag you should be seeing… this could be a long post. :) Get cozy.

How it Started

It was almost a year ago today that I sat and stared into my computer. This very same computer, actually, and contemplated what I considered a life-changing, risky post. It was something I had been toying with for months… an idea to really define my life… to find a path that would lead me to fulfilling all that I wanted and was always “too busy” to do.
I was not yet brave enough to announce my life list. It wasn’t that I was worried about someone thinking my list items were crazy. I knew some of them were, but that most of them were things that I think many people would love to do. It was merely a commitment issue on my part… a fear that I would announce this list of goals and then accomplish none of them.

I had talked about different ideas with Brad… different thoughts about how to incorporate these plans into my blog. Everything seemed so daunting and so risky. I felt like I would HAVE to do the things on my list if I posted them, as if someone out there was holding me accountable. And, while I was terrified of that accountability, I loved the way it made me feel like I would actually accomplish those items. Yet, I still couldn’t commit.
And, then, one day, I picked one thing on the list. I woke up and looked at Brad and told him I was going to train for a triathlon.

Yes, he laughed out loud, too. I had never run so much as a mile in my adult life. I had never swum more than the full length of an Olympic-sized pool (and don’t ask Cilla about our lifeguarding class that we dropped out of nearly immediately in college). I didn’t even own a bike.

And, I was going to train for a triathlon. My poor husband… he tried to be patient and understanding, but I’m pretty sure that he was at a loss for words when I made this declaration. Brad, trying to be the supportive husband and not completely discourage me, suggested that I train for a 5K first. Then, progress on if I enjoyed running.

So, I announced it on my blog. I was going to train for a 5K. A non-runner, strictly speaking, was going to start something new. I downloaded the Couch to 5K program and started working.

Immediately, I fell in love. I loved it all… the burning feeling in my legs and chest, the quietness and aloneness that I rarely had elsewhere, the sound of decade-old music coming from Brad’s outdated mp3 player, and the feeling that I truly was going to accomplish something new. I loved it. I became obsessed with it.

And blogging about it made me feel even better. Every time I started to skip a day, I remembered that I needed to do it because someone might be reading my blog and would be disappointed if I couldn’t finish the 5K. It truly did hold me accountable. Blogging about it made me want to do it more. (Thank you people... I love you again!)

How it Changed Me

I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I had the day I crossed the finish line on my first 5K. It was at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort and Rebecca and I ran it together. It was great. It gave me a high that no drug could ever provide… it made me feel full and alive… and happy. It was my drug - adrenaline… accomplishment… strength… whatever you want to name it, running had given me this new desire and love for life. As soon as I finished the race, I was plotting my next move… thinking about how I wanted to get faster and go farther. Yes. Running became a part of me… it became a passion.

And it really kick started my list. The high I got from accomplishing that one list item pushed me into full speed overdrive to work on the list. I became more confident about my list. I felt like blogging about it was THE way to make me do the items on my list… THE way to make me live the life I wanted to live. So, I did it.

I announced my life list… and I started working on things on the list… marking off some small things, marking off some bigger things, just focusing on finding ways to stop procrastinating all that I had wanted to do with my life… and just DO IT.

How I Struggled

Running wasn’t easy for me. As Dawn alluded to in her post about starting out running, 
there are times when you shouldn’t push yourself too far, too fast, or you will get injured. I have weak ankles. Anyone who knows me from my childhood is probably laughing reading that, as I’m sure they remember me being on homebound from school for over a month in the sixth grade. Not only did a tear a ligament in my left ankle while in gymnastics, as it was healing, I thought it would be a great idea to jump on a trampoline with my cousins, and chipped a bone in my right ankle… all resulting in me having two weak ankles that have been sprained way too many times to count over the years. :) Combine that with my inability to be patient or stick to a training plan, and well, you get injured Andrea…. On repeat.  I struggled with ankle problems throughout the summer.

Once I was ready to really run again, I started having stomach problems, which resulted in a gallbladder surgery. I was frustrated. I felt like every time I would get into a rhythm, I’d hit a roadblock. But sometimes, you can find the silver lining if you look for it. While doing some bloodwork for my gallbladder, the doctors discovered that I am positive forSjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that is similar to Lupus, but not typically as debilitating. I am barely positive. The doctors say I could have it without symptoms, it could be a false positive, or I could start having symptoms at any point. When I learned this, I was afraid. Naturally, no one wants to hear that they could have a disease, no matter how life-altering it might or might not be. I started reading (of course, on Google) and learned a lot about it. I’m still learning about it. Many people don’t have symptoms until they are much older… and some of the worst of the symptoms include increased fatigue and exhaustion.

Fear can drive a lot of things… and it probably plays way too large of a role in my life, but in this one instance, I think it’s a good thing. It gave me a shock. It was as if someone said, “Hey… one day, if you really do have this disease, you might not be able to run. You might not be able to enjoy a lot of the things you love in life.” And, you know, it doesn’t matter if it is Sjogren’s or breast cancer (yes, I’m high risk there too) or if it is no disease at all, there WILL come a time in life when I might not be able to do the things I love. And that includes running. Where is that silver lining I was talking about? It is in the realization that I’m blessed to be able to do the things I love… to have a family who supports that… to have a life that is full… full of love, happiness, family, friends… to have my cup running over.

The Half

With that all on my mind and in my heart, I just about jumped out of my chair in excitement when Dawn, my friend who I met only because of running and blogging and through my best friend, Cilla, e-mailed me and asked if I would want to do the Country Music (Half) Marathon in Nashville in April. Heck yes.  A girls’ weekend… a great run to train for… NASHVILLE – a town I have wanted to visit my entire life (have I mentioned that I lived on the Country Music Highway in Kentucky growing up… and I LOVE country music?). :) Absolute and unequivocal yes, I will train for the half marathon in Nashville.
Digging up a training plan online, planning out our trip, figuring out my schedule and how to incorporate it into Brad’s  and the kids’ busy schedules… all of this had to be done. And, it was. I had it all planned out… and the plan was going great. Then, in March, I started having foot problems. A little more than a month from the race… I was running 10 miles on my long run… almost completely ready for Nashville… and I have a metatarsal stress fracture in my left foot.

Humph.  The doctor tells me I must take time off… and to basically consider myself out of training mode. He said I might be able to run some of it, but not likely that I’ll be able to run the entire half in Nashville, if any of it at all. He tells me to prepare for the possibility of being out.

Depression. Anger. Frustration. Anger.

Three solid months of training… hard training… missing time with my kids kind of training. Gone.

Then, on April 11, I went back to the doctor. I had coped with the idea of being disappointed. He tells me I can ease back into running, but to not consider myself ready for the half… to make sure that I walk as much as I run. Of course, he knows I’m probably not going to adhere to that, so he gives me instructions on how to train so that I can actually finish the half (as well as possible, anyway). I had virtually given up on the hope that I might be able to run some of it. I had even contemplated not walking or running any of it at all, but just going down to the race and being a spectator for Dawn and Maria. And, there I sat, hearing the doctor give me news that I *might* be able to do some of this. I listened (kind of :) ) and now I’m ready. Well, I hope I’m ready. I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I want to finish this without walking so bad. I mean, to do this would make me feel so gratified in all of that work. BUT… I’m not going to be disappointed about whatever my finishing time is or if I have to walk for portions of it. I’m just going to enjoy it, have fun, and realize that I’m blessed to be there and able to run as much as I can.

Why Run…

… because it makes me feel alive, strong, confident, and happy…

… because one day my kids will think it’s pretty awesome that their mom could run 13.1 
miles (or in the translation I give to them these days – from Mamaw Kathy’s to Granny Dale’s house – a completely rough estimate)…

… because I have worked so hard to get here and I don’t want to turn back…

… and, because I can.

Tomorrow – Saturday, April 30 – at 7 a.m. Central Time (8 a.m. Eastern Time), send some positive vibes our way. :) Dawn, Maria, and I will all be running, alongside 30,000 of our closest friends (hehe) in Nashville, Tennessee. And, while you are at it, hope for some good cool, DRY, weather for us, too!

And, while I’m at it, thanks to Dawn and Maria for pulling me through all of the struggles of training for this half. There’s no way I’d be nearly this excited or positive or ready without you girls! Oh… and thanks to Brad for putting up with me, too. I know he’s had to listen to a lot of whining when he didn’t really want to. :) Well, that really goes for Cilla, my parents, my brother, basically anyone who has talked to me over the past month and a half. Lol. I promise to stop whining so much in May. Hehe.

We will post our results on Facebook and give you a little wrap up of our time away next week! Fingers crossed!