While in law school, I lived in a neighborhood where lots of running groups trained. I had never been an athlete. Sure, I played softball as a kid, but I was a chubby nerd with little coordination. But I watched these runners and I was a little jealous. I went to the gym all the time, but I couldn’t run.
Then a friend introduced me to Couch to 5K.
And it took a while, but eventually, I got hooked. I was running three or four times a week, with a long run of 5 miles every weekend. I was pumped. I ran 5Ks. And when I moved to Washington, DC and discovered that there are a number of ten mile races here, I had to do it. So I trained and trained and finished my first Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. I wasn’t fast by any means, but I finished.
A few years later, I decided I wanted more. I discovered the Disney Princess Half Marathon. And I wanted in.
So I trained. I trained like I have never trained before. We had crazy storms in DC that winter, which meant I did a lot of my training on treadmills at the gym. They had an hour limit, so I would run four miles, reset the treadmill, run four more miles, reset the treadmill, and run my final two miles. Thankfully, no one else was waiting for me to finish.
I went to the race and bounced through the expo. I was nervous, but oh so excited.
And then I caught a 24-hour stomach bug. The night before the race.
There was no way I could run. I couldn’t keep water down. I was out.
The morning of the race, I could hear the fireworks at the start line. And I cried. I cried and cried and cried. I was so bummed. But I had already signed up for the Disneyland Half that September (wanting to get my Coast to Coast medal). So I would just have to train.
For whatever reason, I just didn’t bounce back from this illness. Sure, I was eating normally, but I was exhausted. My heart was racing randomly. I started having panic attacks. I was miserable, and not working out at all. I went to the doctor and saw all sorts of specialists. I had brain scans and CT scans and wore heart monitors. They threw words at me like “tumor, multiple sclerosis, heart surgery…” Yeah, if you’re not having panic attacks before that, you certainly will be afterwards.
The doctors were sure that it was brain related, but all the scans came back clean. So I went to the cardiologist. He looked at the paperwork from the other doctors and said “I think I know what this is, but let’s run some tests.” Ultimately, I have some minor heart rate issues. But Doc, can I still run? “Sure, just slow down and watch your heart rate.”
It was in those days when I thought I would never be allowed to run again that I realized just how much running meant to me. And when he told me that I could still run, I started to cry. I was so relieved.
High school me would have never believed it.
So I got back to training, slowly but surely. I went to Disneyland. I ran the Half Marathon. I cried at mile ten when I realized I was going to finish. I ran two more half marathons that year and joined Half Fanatics. I made all sorts of new friends through running.
Oh, and the Princess Half? Yeah, I went back and got that medal the next year, along with my mom and my sister (that’s me in the hat). And I went back to Disneyland and got my Coast to Coast medal too. Totally worth every step.