It seems so long ago, but not so long ago, if you understand that concept. The San Antonio Spark Leaders sat at a table at Chipotle Grill. Neil (POSITIVE-ONE), Lillie (THEMIGHTYLILLIE), TaMara (TAMARA6905), and yours truly were in attendance. It was late November or early December 2011. We had lunch and then got down to business. We wanted to come up with something to get the team involved with which would span a long time to build dedication and to give everyone, no matter their fitness level, enough time to train to do something most of us never even considered or dreamed was possible. We created the 13.1 Half Sparkathon. The goal was to get people walking at home or wherever through the week and to meet up on Saturdays as often as possible to walk together in training for the big event of walking a half marathon. Not as an officially sanctioned charity event, not as something huge like an IronMan Triathlon, but something huge to US. We wanted to show the world (and ourselves) that HUGE triumphs like walking 13.1 miles is possible for just about anyone if you work at it and want it enough. In the last year, two of our leaders have moved on to other things, and Amanda (POOKASLUAGH) has joined TaMara and I in taking the team forward.
TAMARA6905, MJ-SHE-BEAST, POOKASLUAGH
We started training in January of 2012 at McAllister Park, slowly at first doing only one or two laps around one scenic loop in the park. We started out with a fairly large number, nearly 20 members. That number has increased and decreased as we've gone along, dwindling to about 10 die hard "every Saturday" walkers getting together, being joined here and there by the others. It's picking up again now that we are near the end. Pretty soon after we started, some of the better-abled and faster walkers were able to do a larger and longer trail. I got a LOT discouraged when some days I couldn't even walk half a mile because of my knees hurting so badly and my back screaming. Awesome new shoes solved the knee problems. The back I tried to learn to live with.
In March my dad, PAWPAW-DON (78 years old!), joined SparkPeople and our team. He was in the middle of radiation therapy, but really wanted to do something big and to be a part of something special. He can't walk unassisted without a cane or walker, but you put him on his 3 wheeled adult trike and he can stay on it for a long time! He started out riding behind us as we walked. It wasn't too long before he was riding just ahead of us. Now....well, he rides WAY ahead of us and then circles back to see how we are doing. He usually rides about double what we walk on Saturdays. He also carries water, juice, and snacks in a cooler fitted onto the back basket of his trike for the team. And the cancer? He's been in remission for the past several months.
We started trying different trails and paths in late Spring. We spent several Saturdays on the Leon Creek Greenway trail before some other team members told us about the Salado Creek Greenway trail. That's become our permanent training ground, walking from Lady Bird Johnson park trail head to several other parks and back. It's a lovely, scenic walk in nature. Much of the trail is tree covered, but there is enough open area that sunscreen is a MUST. Many of us learned this the hard way in late Spring and Summer.
None of the training has been easy for me. The easiest to deal with have been the sunburns and blistered feet. I've suffered stress fractures in my left foot which haven't healed. They won't heal until I stop walking and wear a cast or boot for a while, but that's been put on hold until after the event. I've had numerous steroid shots in my back, as well as a procedure which burned some of the more damaged nerves in my back. The idea was to "kill" them, relieving some of my pain for several months to maybe even a few years. This past Saturday the searing, burning pain started returning while walking which leads me to believe that either the nerves are already regenerating or that there are other nerves that need to be addressed. There's a non-malignant tumor in my back called a hemangioma which will be removed after the event as well. I've got some stress fractures in my back as well as some herniated disks. I'm at risk for severe injury or even paralysis should I fall. I have to stop for quick breaks to relieve my back or get my wind. I use my inhaler frequently. COPD is not fun, kiddies. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke...KNOCK THAT CRAP OFF! But I have also made huge strides and triumphs when I hit 6, 7, 8, and 9 miles and more. That made every pain worth it.
This past Saturday we planned to walk 8 miles, but only got in about 6.5. My dad has been home sick for a couple of weeks so his first week back proved a bit much for him. My sister and I had to feign fatigue in order to get him to turn back early. He's such a tough guy and would have pushed himself too hard had we let him. We've learned the signs that say Daddy is in trouble and have had to pull the "too much pain" or "just too exhausted" routine before in order to get him to turn around. On his good days, though....there is just no keeping up with him!
Now we are 5 days away from the culmination of a year of training. I'm still in pretty bad shape, but I walked as far as almost 10 miles in November and that's a far cry from pooping out at a quarter of a mile or half a mile at the beginning! Thanks to the oral steroids and a few other factors I cannot control (and a few I could have, if I am honest) I now weigh the most I have ever weighed in my 3 years as a SparkPeople member. But...I'm stronger. I'm more determined. I'm doing this. Am I scared? Scared witless nearly! Am I worried? Yes, not worried I won't finish, worried about the pain I know I am going to have to endure and worried about how long it is going to take me. Thinking about those wonderful people who plan to walk slowly with me all the way to the finish and dear SFLORES216 and LIVESTRONG2010. Suzanne and Teresa are going to ride their bikes on the trail twice and then come back and finish side by side with me. They made me that promise back in March or April. My triathlete friend and my smiley biker babe lady.
The writing of this blog was interrupted by a phone call from my Aunt. She's a real sweetheart, always checking up on me since my mom passed almost two years ago. I told her how I was feeling and how my foot was still burning from Saturday's training. I told her I think I have bronchitis but I'm resting and medicating and hydrating myself well. She asked me, "MaryJane, is it really wise to push yourself this hard? I know you are so close to your event and you've worked hard, but is it really worth it to hurt your foot more and to risk your back like this?" I'm going to tell you what I told her. If I finish, even if I end up having to have surgery on my foot, even if I do irreparable harm to my back, I will have something no one can take from me. I will have the experience of TRIUMPH over adversity, of knowing I am capable of doing something others in better shape than me feel they cannot do, of proving to women (and men) of my size and physical condition that our bodies can do amazing things when we want something enough. I will be able to look people in the eye and say "No excuses, if I can do it, you can do it!". I will finally feel that I have walked the walk and have the right to talk the talk. I need this. I need to be able to reach out into the world and shake it up by proving to every person sitting there doing nothing and just existing day to day that there is REAL LIFE out there no matter what you weigh, no matter what shape you are in.
I'm also doing it as a THANK YOU to my sweet, supportive husband and my team mates. They never stopped believing in me, nor did they let me ever start thinking I couldn't make it. I love them all, from my wonderful Charles to NannBird's doggies, you have all made this journey special for me. I have also been amazed at the weight lost this year by NANNBIRD (Cindy), JELAWTON3 (James), POOKASLUAGH(Amanda), and LIVESTRONG2010(Teresa). You guys are such inspiration for me. I'm proud to see some of our starting team mates returning for the end. Makes my heart smile wide!
When I cross that finish, sweat dripping, exhaustion apparent, back and joints hurting so bad, knees wobbling and feet burning you can bet your sweet bippy I will also be fist pumping, smiling, crying, and screaming at the top of my lungs: