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The Hardest Thing I have Ever Done

It is quiet.  The air is still. I hear a soft pounding in my chest and my feet on the asphalt.  My heart reminds me of the task at hand: kee...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Is It Still In Me?

Two months ago, at the very beginning of this training, I went out for a run.  The coach called it a "fun run."  "Have fun with your running this week," he said, all jovial and familiar, like a found button.  We had only just started on our regiment of six days on, one day off.  The beginning of three months of running in wind, cold, snow, rain and drizzle, which is like rain but much different when you live with the many degrees of showers that plague our Oregon winters.  So, I went out for that "fun run" on that innocent day two months ago, the Friday before the real training began.

It was an exceptional February day, the type of day that temporarily assuages the winter blues of the Pacific Northwest.  Sunshine, through cold.  Blue skies so clear they seemed to sing arias overhead like a mockery to the soggy riverbanks and naked trees.  A day in a calendar whose sky color did not match its season.  Photographs of such a day would surely cause surprise to the picture admirer to flip to their backs and read that it were any time besides July.  You get the point--it was a beautiful and clear day.  We are graced with those occasionally here in the winter, though those Oregon-born have forbid me to speak of it outside of certain circles (which I just have, and unabashedly so). 

My pace was slow.  Remember, I have told you already that I have a terrible and chronic illness.  This is not the reason for my measured pace--no.  I was purposefully marking my footfalls to gauge my improvement from this beginning.  I figured I would start slow, and then ramp up over time.  I assumed I would improve over my three months training.  My schedule dictated that I would improve simply by the suggestions of the greater distances I would tackle by the end of these few months.  We would see.

I did pace my third mile with a digital stopwatch.  I was just at eleven minutes, and not fast.  Here's the thing about it, though.  I was certainly happy with that time.  To be two miles in on a run and to have that 11 mile pace, purposefully slow, at the onset of my training--I was thrilled.  How could I not be?  I knew I could improve on that, and I agreed with myself that it was a decent speed for someone with my 'condition.' 

Now about my condition:  I have not kept it a silent suffering secret that I have Multiple Sclerosis.  Once, I did feel the need to keep this within the privacy of the knowledge of close friends and immediate family.  But no more to this.  Now, I shout it from the rooftops.  I have grown tired of people not knowing what the face of MS looks like or how it behaves (or doesn't).  I am one of its faces and people should see.  Those who have this terrible disease should see.  Those who have family members with this disease should see.  Those who hire employees with MS and those who volunteer to do clinical studies for MS and those who are currently being diagnosed as 'possible MS' should see; should you not?  

I took injections for a number of years and I feel very fortunate to currently be off of the injections and fairly symptom free.  It is a bargain of which I enjoy the better end.  I enter into this bargain with my disease each day with the understanding that all of this could change.  My disease and I have an agreement that I might be running (literally) on borrowed time and borrowed strength.  Be that as it may, I still run.  I do not mock my disease, nor do I underestimate its cunning.  Those who share its face know what I mean.

Anyway, back to the run on the sunny winter day, and the irony to which I build.  I was pleased with my pace for the third mile, as I have already told you.  I had quickened the pace of my fourth mile, just for fun.  After all, this is what the coach had encouraged: fun.  I was nearing the end of my route, the place of my employment and the location of my change of clothes and car, my water bottle, etc.  The only obstacle between me and a restful drive home to refreshing shower was the 'walk/don't walk' sign at the busy intersection.

Presently, it displayed that word that is wonderfully hopeful for those MS-faced: 'Walk!'  It said in a glow of green.

Still , as I quickened my pace and rounded the corner and caught sight of that glorious word ('walk,' in case by now you have forgotten through my verbose recollection) I found that I did not want to wait at the intersection, should the pedestrian instructions suddenly change to 'don't walk.' At this thought, I sprinted, not even sure that I had the energy in me, but more certain that I could not tolerate the delay at the post.  And then, as surely as I had decided to bolt for the opportunity to cross, the sign changed.  Indeed, I thought I could still make it and would!  Some delay always accompanied the timer once the 'don't walk' displayed.  And I was fast! Afterall, I was a runner now.  Had I not just run an eleven minute mile for my third mile?  I had.  I could make this light, or I would die trying.

I realized that that latter was more the reality once I saw the waiting autos lurching at the pole position, grinding their gears to get going with more impatience than I.  So there I came to a most abrupt stop at the curb.  However, by the momentum of my pace--fast like a cat, I assure you-- the body of me went beyond my planted feet and I crumpled over the curb and grabbed the pole to keep from falling.

Let me spare you the description of the sound my ankle made from inside of my body when it snapped beneath my weight.  I will likewise forgo the myriad of colors that developed there at once on my bent foot and leg.  Did I break it though?  No.  What I did, though, was sprain it in a fairly convincing manner.  The evidence that Urgent Care produced was two ligaments and a muscle torn, with a small bone fragment pulled from my foot.

I feel that if I colored in the irony here I would cheat you, if you have bothered to read thus far.  Let it suffice to say that I have continued to run, comitted to this thing.  The MS has not stopped me, as you know.  The ankle, though badly injured temporarily, only slowed me.  Let us see where the next 30 days will take me. 

This is the last month of our training and I am 100% again.

I think it is still in me.

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