Why I Run - Because I (Still) Can
The air is still and crisp with a bite that does not so much nip but rather gnaws at my ears. I have stretched my legs, arms, back, and am ready to run 3 miles. I plug in my headset: waves of something in the way stir my feet, a slow rhythm that pulls me to move gradually forward, a mere trot in the beginning.
In the beginning, I do not have fatigue, I do not have doubts, I do not have MS. It is just me, the pavement pounding up my legs, and the determination to move my body in ways that I usually do not. In the beginning, I have the cool breath of morning filling my lungs, I have the sharp, gray sky standing above me, I have pain in my ears from the cold of the world all around me.
The world around me rises up to greet me. It swirls around me. It pulls me in and suddenly I am a part of the great show. Here is a cat patiently waiting on its porch, eager to get back inside its warm home. And now, a great black bird moves from a wire to a branch, an effortless-looking motion that was more like a hop than flight. A lone car glides past, puffs of its white steam issue its complaints against entropy. And then I am alone.
Once alone, the direction turns left, the pavement turns to bark-mulch, the music turns to a woman holding her tongue knowing silence will speak for her. Steady, unlike my left hand when it trembles with nerve damage. Rhythmic, unlike my courage against my fear that waivers when my symptoms flare. Fast, so unlike my typical movements, carefully measured, clumsy despite my efforts. Balanced. Now I glide through the morning, my head along for the ride, my body surprising me, mocking the disease that threatens me--a silent and constant menace. Here I come around the bending path, though the trees, mist clinging to their exposed roots. Then there is the tree that reminds me.
The tree that reminds me lives at mile 2. It is a great and old maple. This time of the year its leaves are all but gone, having drifted off to become the soil and other things. It reminds me of disease, with its exposed roots stripped of their protective cambium layers, like delicate nerves stripped of their myelin. The tree leans in the direction of its injury, the wrinkles on its trunk and bark a telltale sign of how its life changed once the injury occurred. The injury, a singular event in its life. Disease, for me recurring.
This life of mine moves me past the tree. I am tired by now. By now, I have reawakened the beast--that fatal memory of my limitations, of my body's desire to attack itself as an erroneous attempt to heal. Now I rub the spot on the side of my thigh where I last injected my medication. There is phantom pain there. I know it is not real, but I am reminded nonetheless. By now, I not only feel my heart thump in my chest, but I hear it as well. It replaces the song now reverberating through a long fade. The tree is behind me by now. Now.
The final push moves me back to the pavement, through the neighborhood streets, down the familiar road where I live. In the end, I have fatigue but I run anyway; I have doubts but I push at them with each new stride; I have fear but I press on. In the end, I believe it is my anger that finishes the run for me, but it is my courage that wins the race, that incessant competition that only exists between me and myself. In the end, I do not allow the MS to be a factor in the equation. I cannot or else it stops me in my tracks.
Tree Struck By Lightning