Thursday, October 12, 2017

Running Isn't a Choice For Me

Hey all!  If you've read pretty much any of my posts, you'll know that I love running.  I've run multiple marathons, I ran through 35 weeks of my 37 week pregnancy, and I routinely run at least 3 mornings every week.  In order to do this, I wake up at 4:30 every morning (sometimes earlier).  It leaves me tired and hungry, and I often have people ask me why I do it.  Why do I feel the need to wake up at 4:30 am to run 4 miles when I've just pulled a 13 hour shift at the kennel that had me on my feet all day?  Why do I wake up early Saturday morning, when I could be sleeping in, to run 18+ miles?  After a long run, I physically hurt and often require some recovery time.  Why do I put myself through that?  Well, let me tell you, it isn't easy.  I don't always make it out.  Sometimes illness or just over-fatigue wins out.  It requires a lot of support from a very understanding husband.  And sometimes I just don't want to.  But, quitting running isn't an option.  Let me give you some background.

First, you should know how I got into running.  My dad was a high school / college track star, so running was always kind of glorified in my household.  However, I was never really into it (I was much more the book nerd, and I wasn't particularly fast anyway).  In college, however, my lack of physical activity caught up with me.  I gained weight quickly, and it wasn't long before the scale climbed over 200 lb.  I first started running as a way to lose weight.  I ran on the treadmill, and the only goal I ever set was to run 1 mile without having to walk.  I think I achieved that goal one time before I was in a car accident that caused some bad whip lash and set me back considerably.  It wasn't until 2011 that I started running again as a way to exercise with Cody.  That's when I ran my first 5k.

In 2012, though, I had some weird health things going on.  First, I really started struggling to breathe.  The best description was air hunger.  I just couldn't get a deep enough breath.  It wasn't constant, but it was regular.  It would happen at least once a day, often multiple times, and it could last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours.  In addition, I developed a bad rash on my leg.  It was mildly itchy, but more than anything it was unsightly.  The doctor suspected sarcoidosis and order a barrage of tests.  X-rays, an EKG II, ultrasounds, and a dermatologist appointment ruled out sarcoidosis, but it didn't give us an answer.  I continued running.

Since my 5k had gone fairly well, I was interested in a 10k, so I started increasing the mileage.  The day I ran my first 6 miler was such a huge achievement.  I was SO tired afterward, and I felt I could barely move, but I'd run the whole way (even up a steep hill), and Cody had run with me.  At the end of the night, I realized something.  I hadn't had any trouble breathing that day.  Keep in mind, I'd had issues with air hunger every single day for 6+ months, and all of a sudden it was better.  That was huge.  So, I kept running.  My breathing issues stayed gone, and as I changed my diet to better fuel my runs, my skin got better too.

All stayed well until 2015.  That's when things got really bad with Mom.  On the days I didn't run, I had trouble breathing.  Sometimes I had trouble breathing even on days I did run.  But the long runs always saved me.  Pretty much anything over 12 miles meant I'd have a good day breathing.  If I couldn't run far, I'd run hard.  Harder, faster, stronger meant I'd be more tired, but I'd breathe better the rest of the day.  Those runs carried me through the loss of my mother.

If you haven't figured it out yet, we've determined my breathing issues were a form of anxiety attacks.  I was too wrapped up in my head.  Running exhausts me to the point where I can't get that worked up, and it allows me time to meditate in my own way.  Now, running is helping me in another way.  It's allowing me to actually feel my emotions.  My really long run days (16 or more miles) I generally end up crying before bed time.  It's not from physical pain, but rather mental.  When everything else is out of the way, and I've run to the point my guard is down, my body and mind allows my heart to feel things it normally can't.  Some people go to therapy for this.  I go for a run.  It's what works for me.

Last month, I suffered a minor injury, and it had me side lined for a few weeks.  Let me tell you, I was not a happy camper.  I was sluggish and grouchy, and I hurt.  Oh, and that air hunger came back with a vengeance.  Coming back to running has been a wonderful experience.  So, as I said, running isn't a choice for me.  I have to do it.  I love doing it, and stopping would cause me more pain than the act of running itself. 

For those who ask why, the answer is that running has saved my life.