Tuesday, October 25, 2011
I started running in May, 2008, at the age of 49. When I mean “started,” I mean that literally. I ran for about 30 seconds, then paused to gasp for air. By July of that year, I ran my first 5K. I was over the moon ecstatic, and so happy I could run 3.1 miles non-stop. I kept running, and on my 50th birthday I broke 30 minutes with a 29:20 5K. I thought I was doing GREAT, so I kept on running. In November 2008, I ran a half marathon. My time was 2:14:19. Not bad for a 6-month running rookie! And a few weeks later I ran a 16 mile mountain trail race. My running was going well!
In March 2009, I ran a 3K and did really well, then went home and tripped in my kitchen. I broke my already titanium shoulder. But I continued to run up until time for surgery (another – actually my 3rd – replacement on that shoulder). I ran my first full marathon during that time. It wasn’t anything to brag about, but it was done. June came around, my surgery came and went. During my surgery they discovered a bacterial infection and a fungal infection, and I was on IV antibiotics and oral antifungals for what seemed like forever. And then a reaction to my medicine caused my skin to peel off my face. It was awful. In August I had just gotten my splint off and my IV out of my arm, and I ran a 10K. But something happened at that 10K, and my right leg wouldn’t hold up to running. See, I have rheumatoid arthritis. I was diagnosed when I was 23. At the age of 30, one of my doctors told me I would be in a wheelchair within 5 years. There have been times when I’ve walked with a cane, and times when I’ve had to use the scooters while I grocery shop. But as for full-time wheelchair? No. I’m good, thank you.
My right leg was very messed up. It was my foot, my ankle, my knee, and whatever else could go wrong. I had to limp around with it until the end of the year. But by December I was making a comeback. When March came around again, I ran the same 3K, and cut 2 minutes off my time! The spring 5Ks were all in the 27 minute range. I was doing great!! Then my right foot started bothering me again. My toe knuckles swelled like ping pong balls trying to press out of the bottoms of my feet. Running more than 4 miles was painful. It burned like I was walking on hot asphalt. My doctor told me to reduce my mileage. But I was scheduled to run the Iron Horse Half Marathon. I ran it, but I walked a lot, and my 2010 time was 2:20:xx. Boo hiss…
Spring, 2011, still with major foot problems, I ran Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon. My feet were so bad, everything after mile 8 was torture. I finished in 2:28:xx. I felt as if arthritis had stolen my running from me.
Right around that time, I switched medicine. My foot swelling started going down. I met up with a group of wonderful, supportive runners, and the first double digit run I did with them was pretty darn awesome! But I had to bail out at mile 10.5 due to my feet. I didn’t give up, though. I kept at it, and my runs started getting stronger. I didn’t do very much speed work, I just wanted to concentrate on building mileage. 17 miles was my longest run, and my feet held up. My Iron Horse would be good, I could tell.
Iron Horse Half Marathon day… I woke up feeling good. I knew my feet would hold up. I knew my runs had been consistent. I knew my lungs and legs were strong. I’d been running hills in preparation for the hilly course, and I knew at mile 10 I could run a hill as well as I could in mile 1. I was ready. Would I get a new personal best? I didn’t know, but I knew my run would be good.
Race day in beautiful Midway, Ky. I ran. And I ran. I knew at the halfway point that I was set to come really close to my last personal best time (which was set back in 2008 with my first Half Marathon). I knew if I could hold on through mile 10, then the other 3.1 miles would be okay no matter what pace I ran. But I stayed strong through 13 miles. When I rounded the corner and a fireman hollered, “3/10s of a mile to go!” I looked at my watch and I knew I had it. I took off and ran as hard as I could to the finish line. 3/10s of a mile of hard, hard running. I looked like I knew what I was doing.
My official time: 2:14:00. I had beaten my previous personal best by 19 seconds!!! I wanted to cry. That new time was a long time coming, and I’ve had to fight and claw my way through shoulder replacements, infections, IV’s, hurt legs, swollen toes, and a variety of other problems. But I did it – and I feel as strong as an Iron Horse. Actually, I’m as strong as a Titanium Horse. And I am ready to run.