Monday, January 10, 2011

A Running Start

While initially in the hospital I thought that maybe my hardcore exercise days were over (a couple of doctors having suggested I become a casual biker/walker), by the time I got out I wanted to get back to marathon training as soon as possible, to run from my problems if you will. My ‘liberal’ doctor had said I could run as long as I took it easy and ran with someone ‘just in case.’

I got out of the hospital and tried to run the next day. I was on three medications at that time, a steroid for healing purposes, two anti seizure medications plus I’d been given some pain killers but I wasn’t taking those. The biggest side effect at that point was my sense of balance. Initially I could only be up for so long before I started to have some vertigo but that subsided quickly and I could walk without any issues. However, during that day after the hospital run, I couldn’t even go 40 yards without feeling like I was going to fall over. I tried several times to start…but just couldn’t do it. Eventually I turned around and walked home feeling rather thwarted. My neighbor Rick who I often crash into and have long conversations with saw me but at that time didn’t address me. I didn’t see him at all, probably since my head was pointing straight down, but he would later say to me that I looked like a beat dog walking with my tail in between my legs.

The next day I very consciously was standing up as much of the day as possible, trying to ‘regain balance.’ I tried that run again and while there were definitely times where it felt like I was leaning over I completed 3 miles. Saturday morning, a friend took me to run with the group I’d been training with, the Ship of Fools. My training program called for a 13 mile run that day and 5 days after a brain biopsy and two after getting out of the hospital, I didn’t see a reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it. So I started and continued and…continued……continued…with each mile getting harder and harder. It was the hardest run I’d ever done except for the 2 marathons I’d done. Nothing felt injured, it just felt like I hit a brick wall at mile nine and I was simply powering through. At the end of the run, I was once again just very discouraged. Jeff, a guy the group calls ‘Big,’ offered me a ride home and I updated him on the situation. The biggest part of Jeff has always been his personality and with an upbeatness that is contagious, he listened to my fears that I wasn’t going to be able to run this marathon and how I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make the workouts. Without any hesitation, he said to email the group and that the shipmates would get me there. Besides, he added, clearly it means something to you if you were trying to do it from your hospital and it’s cheaper and better than therapy. If you’re slower, you’re slower, he consoled, but I don’t think you will be.

The day after that run I had an urban race where I was partnered up with the friend who’d run with me in the hospital, Matt. This was the 4th one I had ever done and that’s the place we would finish in: 4th. It was the first time I hadn’t placed in one of those having come in first or second in the others. Matt was always a step ahead of me and I just couldn’t keep up with him. We’re relatively the same speed usually but he was clearly having to slow down for me, something that if it frustrated him he didn’t show, but it was sure frustrating me.

Those first 4 attempts at running were incredibly gloomy and my wife said, ‘It’s okay sweetheart. You don’t have to get back into everything immediately.’ I looked up and said something off the cuff that would become a very relevant truth: “I’ve never been average at much of anything. The day I stop trying to be superman is the day I’ve given up.” She wisely responded with “I trust tomorrow’s run will be better.”

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