“Are you OK??” In reply, I give the thumb’s up, or an “OK” symbol, or if I can squeeze it out without sounding like I’m dying…..”I’m great!”. Often this is followed by….“I’m a nurse, are you SURE you’re ok?” or “Do you have an inhaler? Do you need mine?” Once upon a time, I found their concern to be reassuring; I took comfort in the safety of the world of runners. Lately, I find their concern annoying, aggravating, discouraging, even frustrating. I’m not really frustrated with them, I’m frustrated with my struggle in this vessel, my own limitations, my lack of speed, my labored breathing that does not yield the same pace results it used to produce. But I still run, and I will run as long as my body allows me to do so.
So why do I run, you might ask? I’ve answered this question before on Facebook, or on a survey at a running webpage, or even just out loud. If I had to answer that concisely, I would always answer………..I run because I can. I am happy to elaborate on that statement, but the details all return to………..because I can, because others cannot. I run because everyone said I could not, should not, would not on a road, or on a trail, in a race, in the park, down the path, on the street………..not anywhere, they said, should you run, your asthma is too severe. I listened to the frightened people who wanted me to avoid drowning, when they discouraged me from swimming, because my breathing was so labored. I listened to the people who said when I walked fast, “slow down, you aren’t supposed to breathe that hard.” I listened to well-meaning individuals who encouraged me to be a couch potato. FAT lot of good that did me.
I started by walking, and I walked too slow. Those little 5 foot tall dynamos I worked with could outwalk me so much they had to loop back over and over so I could “keep up” with them. As my weight dropped, I grew tired of this game. As the pain in my heels and knees decreased, I started to run a few feet to catch up; I was severely out of breath but I liked the feeling of pushing myself, then walking. So my unofficial interval training was born not from a book, or a program, or a trainer, but a desire to CATCH up with my fellow walkers. Before long, or so it seemed, I wanted to run more. And more. I wanted to walk less and less. I completed three races in 2008 where I only ran short intervals, but it was just enough of a TASTE of what it felt like to run with a bib on and it was much more savory than eating mashed peas wearing a baby bib. 🙂 Before long, I was firing my therapist in favor of better running shoes; what did I need him for, when I could run? I was struggling with a medical issue that held me back for a time period, but once I took care of that, I was ready for the open road. I ran my first 5k, in intervals, 9-16-09, in 36:59; I was hooked. By then I was pretty thin, and borderline starving, but oh-so happy.
I ran many 5ks but I had my eye on the Air Force Half Marathon, 2010, because one of my running sisters, Beth, ran the USAF in 2009, when I was a running newbie. I signed up to run the Cleveland Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame Half Marathon, May 2010, as my inaugural half. I showed up, having run only 6 miles as my “long run” due to injuries, which, like many, plague me to this day. I met an amazing woman, Dee, that day, another running sister, and she ran her first full marathon that day; we were together until mile 11 when the course split off. I finished my first half marathon and ran three more that year, including the USAF. I met Rocket Girl and ran with her; so many running sisters that year……it is an amazing group of women. I ended that year a little burned out on my new sport, from physical limitations and just overuse….14 races might have been too many for former couch potato, AKA Asthma Runner Girl, AKA Super K. My weight increased slightly all year; starving and running distance certainly did not seem to coincide well for me, despite my efforts to manage my weight.
I started CrossFit in January 2011 and went back to grad school. I could barely juggle running and CrossFit and work, and kids, and school……………so I did not run enough in 2011, but I squeezed out a few races, including a Warrior Dash. That is it’s OWN story, and it wasn’t my best running year. I let love and another person’s insecurity get between ME and MY sport, it was my dumb decision, and I was too exhausted from all of my commitments, emotional, physical, financial, to fight for myself. I struggled with weight all year, some of it muscle from my newfound strength and power, but some FAT again. Always, running was the best therapy, CrossFit, as amazing as it was, couldn’t touch that. November that year, I found out I had cervical cancer, and I ran the Turkey Trot just a couple of days after I found out. I flew through that 5 miler despite only having trained for 3 miles, because I was ALIVE, we caught it early, and I would live to run many more days. I had a total hysterectomy in January 2012, and cured cancer. I began walking at four weeks, plus student teaching, finishing college…..I was so grateful for friends, family, everyone during that time period; and I could not wait to run again. It was slow and painful, when at 8 weeks out, I went for my first run, but there was no stopping me. I had WON.
So this year, when I finished the hellish and wonderful route to my M.Ed through sheer perseverence and HELP from coworkers as I maintained my job as well, I immediately, and I mean immediately, turned to running. The love obstacle was removed at the same time, and I was not only free to run, I NEEDED to run like I needed air to breathe. I began training for another half marathon almost immediately, and I ran the Indianapolis Monumental for the second time in November 2012; it is the only one I’ve finished twice. I started in a new running group, which is awesome, I’ve run the Turkey Trot for the fourth time, and completed my first 6 mile (prox) pub run, yes, that means we drank and ran and drank and ran…………….now that’s FUN running. I’m still struggling with my weight, and I’ll never be happy, always a work in progress, but I won’t give up and end up on the couch again. Am I OK? Yes, I’m GREAT! I might be slower, I might be heavier, but I’m still Asthma Girl Runner AKA Super K, and I run because I can.