“There is an underlying purpose and meaning behind my training, always. It isn’t about the next race or the next workout. It’s about fitness and fortitude for the next test around the corner that I cannot see.” –Kristin Armstrong
Last year my test was running 26.2 unexpected miles. As my sister, for my sister. I made the decision to do it about 14 hours before it started.
My sister had signed up to run the Cellcom Green Marathon in hopes of qualifying for Boston. Several months into her training she was told she had to have surgery and it was scheduled for two weeks before her race. Her health had to be the priority, so instead of being in Green Bay, she was home and resting, post-op, as she should have been.
Endometriosis. This lovely autoimmune disease invaded both of our bodies during our late teenage years, (a gene passed on by our mom I assume, since she has it as well) and has wreaked havoc on them ever since. There is no cure, there is no one treatment that works for everyone and it remains to be very much of a medical mystery. Hers most recently has attached to her ureter, mine attached to my bowel. Our symptoms have included period pain, non-period pain, cysts, ruptured cysts, UTI’s, bloating, food sensitivities, constipation and irritable bowel. You learn to live with pain. Menstrual pain, pain with going to the bathroom, pain with intercourse or pain while just sitting and doing nothing. There are random moments when it suddenly feels like you’ve been stabbed with a knife and it’s not so cool when it happens around people you don’t’ know very well and you’re suddenly hunched over, sweating and need to leave the room. It honestly never really makes sense as to when a symptom with strike.
There were times when we struggled with getting pregnant and had to have surgeries to help “clean things up” in order to do so. Our treatments have included birth control pills, Lupron, a partial hysterectomy, laparoscopy with laser, removal of an appendix, fallopian tubes and one ovary. Between us, we’ve had nine abdominal surgeries, not counting our C-sections. We’ve made significant dietary changes, which have truly helped a lot.
Her and I live very normal and active lives and you won’t hear us complain very often about all we have and continue to deal with. Most who know us, don’t even know we have it. Through all of this, we are still the fortunate ones, as we’ve been blessed with five beautiful children. I know there are so many who aren’t so lucky and my heart truly breaks for all of them, as I can’t imagine dealing with both the pain of the disease and the heartache of what its true wrath can take away.
So, when she had texted me saying, “So sad that I will not be in GB this weekend. Seriously could cry” and then followed it up a day later asking if I would at least pick up her bib so she could have her shirt, how could I NOT consider running those damn 26.2 miles for her, as her. It had to be me. It was supposed to be me, as I fully understand all that she has gone through. I sent her a photo of her bib that evening, along with my /yellow/ fellow flower, basically saying, “Because I get to.” She couldn’t, so I did.
Even though it wasn’t in my plan, I truly felt ready, both mentally and physically. My gut told me to go for it and I’m proud of myself for listening. Sure, some people thought I was crazy. Others completely supported and believed in me. I knew I had a good base of strength as I had been consistently training since that December and had ran three half marathons in the past six weeks, but was a little worried I hadn’t ran more than 13 miles since that October. I was confident I could get to 20 and then figured I could gut out, walk/run, tuck-n-roll or somersault the last six if needed.
I ended up with a PR by more than eleven minutes. I settled in, ran my own race and let my purpose and my reason lead the way. At mile 10, while listening to the lyrics of “I Run for Life” by Melissa Etheridge, I found myself reflecting on our struggles with endometriosis. I know we are not alone and so in channeling the words of the song, I ran for us all. I also went back to some of my favorite parts of the book Milemarkers, by Kristen Armstrong. These reflections along the way became the inspiration for this piece of writing.
Yes, I had my struggles and at mile 19, even had the “This was such a dumb idea,” thought. But, I rallied, then struggled again from 22-25 (Does anyone NOT struggle during those miles?) and then crossed the finish line feeling more fulfilled and happy than any other I’ve crossed.
“Running for someone else makes me less willing to give up and more able to withstand the pain and the fatigue, knowing that someone else is drawing power from my effort. I look at it as an opportunity to carry a portion of someone else’s burden, to cover some ground on that person’s behalf, to try to lighten the load by shouldering some of it on my own back. That’s endurance. That’s what moves me.” -Kristin Armstrong
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Keep fit and continue to train so you get after your next test with fortitude. And run on ladies, because you GET to.
And so because we GET to, I gifted both my sister and mother a SHE Rocks Virtual Run entry this Sunday as a Mother’s Day gift to us all. I feel honored to run with them, even if it’s not in person, because this time we ALL GET to.
May you run with purpose & intent this weekend. May you run because you get to. I look forward to running alongside each of you ladies in spirit.