Friday, October 18, 2013
Running, Sjögren's, Races, and Disney
As a child and teenager growing up, I was not the athletic type. One of my worse memories as a freshman in high school was having to run a hundred yard dash in gym class. And then a relay. A relay involves team members and after the hundred yard dash, I was known to be the slowest runner. Of course you know what that meant. I was the last person picked for my relay team. I was embarrassed and humiliated; which was a common occurrence for me in gym class, except for when I was playing volleyball. I was, and still am, decent at playing volleyball.
Over the past several years, I have been working on my fitness level. I have lost about sixty-five pounds and I am probably in the best cardiovascular shape of my life. My joints are often a mess but my heart does just fine. I pale in comparison to many other people who can spend hours at the gym, but I know I am doing the best I can with this lousy autoimmune illness, so I try not to compare myself to others; just to myself.
About two years ago, I decided I wanted to be a runner. My Sjögren's related joint pain had quieted down, thanks to hefty doses of prednisone, and for some reason, I thought running would be a good idea. However I only lasted several weeks before my knees started to act up in a big way and I was afraid that I was doing more harm than good. To be honest, I also didn't know what I was doing in terms of stretching, cooling down, and all those other important things that have to do with running. I had also started to wean down on my prednisone to a point where I came off it completely. Not only did that affect my knees, but most of my upper joints as well. At that point, I decided that as a person with an autoimmune illness, I would never be able to run again.
Things have changed since then. I have started several different alternative medicine treatments, which have enabled me to tolerate the lower doses of prednisone much better. I am carrying less weight and my fitness level has improved. So I have made two very big decisions:
I am going to run again. Or at least, I am going to try very hard to run again.
That was the first decision. I came home from my honeymoon in Disney and decided that I was going to try running again. The reasons are varied. To me, running represents pushing my body beyond its limits. And trust me, my body has a LOT of limitations, and I am tired of them. I want to be stronger and I want that endorphin rush that comes from running and from pushing my body to the limit. I want to do something that to me, and to most Sjögren's patients, seems like the impossible. Over the past two years, I have done quite a few things that at one time, seemed impossible for me to do. The biggest example is that I am in the process of publishing my first book. Another example is the $7000+ dollars I raised in the period of one month to publish said book.
I am doing the running thing quite a bit differently this time around. I am doing my homework by researching training techniques, especially in relation to injury prevention. Thanks to yoga and Pilates, my hips and back should make it through the runs. My bigger concern is my ankle and knee joints. I have an old ankle injury from a fall in 2012 that so far, seems to be holding up pretty well thanks to yoga. Before I started taking yoga classes, I was looking at the possibility of an ankle surgery, but that is no longer an issue. After five runs, I am already starting to feel it in my inner knees, however I am not sure if this discomfort is joint related or muscle related as the pain is different than my typical knee joint pain. My body could just not be used to running. However, I have incorporated some pre and post-run stretches into my routine, as well as icing my knees after each run. This helped quite a bit after today's run. I have also learned that I need to do better with my nutrition and on strengthening my core. Luckily, I love Pilates. I feel that Pilates and yoga will go a long way in helping me with not only my autoimmune symptoms, but with my running as well.
When I tried running two years ago, I found this awesome running store in a town about forty-five minutes away and got properly fitted for running shoes. Even though I stopped running at that time, I found that running sneakers were the best sneaker for me because I overpronate when I walk. Before we went to Disney, I went back there to be fitted for another pair of sneakers. Earlier this year, I developed plantar fasciitis and was referred to an orthotics specialist who fitted me for orthotic inserts that go in my sneakers. I think that those have been a big help with running.
So I am taking it slow, very slow. I have friends who are helping me out by providing me with knee strengthening exercises (thanks Heather!) and I continue to research and learn as much as possible. And I do not run. I do a run/walk with my goal of doing a mile in fifteen minutes three times a week. That's it. When I can do that for several weeks, I will consider upping the distance and/or the time. I think last time I attempted running, I tried to do too much, too soon. I will be smarter this time.
I am well aware that this running thing could not work out, which is why even though I have been mentioning on my personal Facebook page that I have started to run, I haven't been as vocal about some other plans that I have. The reason is simple: I am afraid that if I say anything publicly and then fail at running, I will look like a failure. Then I realized that just the fact that I am TRYING to run again makes me a success. The fact that I am willing to go outside of my comfort zone makes me a success. But there is something I want to do more than anything:
I want to run a race.
Specifically a half marathon at Disney World in January 2015 for Team Sjögren's.
After spending a week at Disney and then hearing about my friend, Heidi, who has Sjögren's, training for her first Disney marathon to take place this January, I decided that I want that experience as my goal. A goal so seemingly insurmountable that it is almost laughable to me. But I want it and I want it bad. Part of it is probably because I like the challenge of trying to accomplish something that I was told I could not do. I know that there is a strong likelihood that if and when I do a race, I will finish dead last. I am O.K. with that. I just want to finish.
So I have made some other running goals. Five months from now is the Holyoke Road Race. It's a pretty big deal in the area where I live and it is the day before the big St. Patrick's Day Parade in Holyoke, MA. I have always wanted to be a part of it but never thought it was possible. It is a 10K race which means that the course is six miles.
Then again, a half marathon is 13.1 miles so I better start somewhere. There is also a race Memorial Day weekend which I would LOVE to do. It is called the Run To Remember race in Boston and its goal is to honor fallen Massachusetts law enforcement officers. There is a five mile course and it runs through downtown Boston, one of my favorite places in the world. I think that if I can get through both of these races, including the training, I will be able to make a more firm decision about booking tickets for Disney in January 2015. At least that is the plan my husband and I have come up with so far!
There. I have said it. I am going to run and try to do a race...or several races. I will stay positive, be gentle with myself and my efforts, and try to remember that this will take time and a lot of patience. I am also VERY receptive to any suggestions and advice that any of my readers have for me. Please fell free to leave them in the comments section below.