I am not a runner.
The only thing about me that runs is my nose as a side effect from treatment.
I hated running in high school. Every step of the yearly running test was agony. It made me feel like I wasn’t good enough because I never did well and always walked some.
At the end of 2019, I saw a comment from one of my friends who works at the UW Foundation who has been a main support to me as I’ve worked to raise more funds for metastatic breast cancer research. She had written a supportive comment on someone else’s post promoting a 5K race for UW Carbone.
The race is on May 30th.
My birthday is on May 30th. My 50th birthday.
Thoughts are faster than any runner. I knew in a flash what was happening. My thoughts are italicized.
Don’t even think about it.
You are not a runner.
Don’t be ridiculous.
You don’t enjoy running.
You can’t do this. You have metastatic breast cancer.
You have never run a 5K.
You haven’t even tried.
Because it’s insane.
But you’ve seen this information and you can’t un-see it.
The idea is already there that it would be an awesome way to greet your 50th birthday in victory. It sure would show cancer a thing or two.
It also would be a miracle, but you’re a lot stronger than you were last year.
You know what happens once an idea has already rooted.
You’ve envisioned crossing the finish line.
You’re apparently doing this. Keep it to yourself so others don’t think you’re unrealistic, too ambitious, or crazy.
What’s wrong with you?
I started doing some research on 5K training schedules. I learned most schedules intersperse running and walking and eventually phase out the walking. I would manage by building my abilities slowly.
On days that I didn’t strength train or walk outdoors, I worked on my running plan, slowly building endurance and running stamina and keeping the embers to do this burning inside me.
I also started working with a running coach. Get this – it turns out I already had a perfect gait from my gait analysis and good rhythmic breathing. Who knew?
I might be a runner.
My mind throws obstacles in my way. It’s really good at that. A sliver of doubt that sneaks in has more weight than all my positive affirmations, mantras, and visualizations. It shakes my goals. I struggled at home on my treadmill in extending my running minutes and lessening my walking recovery minutes. Breathing was harder to manage. The fun phase was over. I realized all the hard work that lay ahead.
Ah-ha! I knew it wouldn’t last. It would be best to give up and enjoy something easier.
No, it wouldn’t. Stick with this and figure it out.
Be stubborn. Rely on that irrefutable strength. Being stubborn is more important than your physical capabilities right now.
I am in this for the long haul.
It’s time for another session with your running coach.
More physical obstacles showed themselves. I broke out in a rash fairly early on in my efforts training on my own that kept coming back every time I ran and got so hot. It was exercised induced. My body eventually accepted what I was doing to it.
Take that body. I won.
I officially registered for the Race for Research at the end of January and formed Team 50. My heart felt choosing Team Pokey for a name was a better fit, but I wanted to keep messaging consistent with messaging from other fundraising goals.
My running coach wrote out plans for me. I worked on interval training mixed with strength work. I would vary the speed and incline, hop off the treadmill and do some lifting drills that runners do, and then repeat for 5 times. I was amazed at what I could do.
I practiced progression runs of varying paces and runs with varying inclines. I could do them. It was a challenge, but I could do them. It made me feel accomplished and athletic. Feeling athletic in the midst of metastatic breast cancer is not me. Feeling athletic was never me.
Except athletic has become me over the span of six months.
Okay, semi-athletic. Keep it real.
I worked on treadmill progressive runs, inclined runs, surge runs, and made it outdoors a couple of times. I was hitting a 5K fairly easily on my treadmill. Then COVID-19 hit. One by one, my plans disappeared. The Race for Research is the last event standing and I suspect it will either become a virtual run or be rescheduled for fall. Gathering cancer survivors, those being treated for cancer, as well as their supporters together at a crowded event, even if it’s outside, doesn’t align with physical distancing. The UW Carbone Cancer Center will make the choice it needs to make.
It will be a major disappointment, albeit necessary.
It is a miracle I’ve even endeavored to run. I experienced hand-foot syndrome several years back which made walking extremely painful. Neuropathy has been present at some level since my original chemotherapy. I ignore it. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am.
If COVID-19 sidelines the race, it will not sideline me. I have mapped out a 5K loop in my neighborhood and will run it on my birthday. I’ll invite a few friends to come cheer me on at various points along my route (all six feet apart – more like six blocks apart). COVID-19 will not take it away from me. It may take away my VIP status and prevent me from speaking at the race about the deep hope I have for research at UW Carbone, but it won’t take away what I’ve been working for, sweating for, and fighting for since December. It can’t take away the hope I am always striving to give others.
If you know me, you know I will find a way to get this to happen and make the best of it.
I’d love to say I’ll do it rain or shine, but if it’s rainy I’ll postpone my moment in the sun for a time when it truly will be a moment in the sun. I’m stubborn but not completely crazy.
I have been unknowingly making a run for it for many years.
I have been a runner all that time.
I won’t stop running.
I am a runner.
April 16, 2020 update: The Race for Research has been canceled. It will return on June 5, 2021. Onward to Plan B for me.