Pushing past my fears to run an 8k

#running4brave Bipolar Mom Life This Is My Brave fundraiser

I’ve hated running for as long as I can remember. This fierce hatred stemmed from the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenges we had to endure in grade school. Middle school was rough enough with puberty. Why did they have to throw in a rigorous athletic test which we had to perform in front of our peers?

I could care less about doing the most sit-ups or pull-ups or push-ups. I just wanted to get through it. Especially the mile. The dreaded mile. It seemed like an impossible task to run an entire mile without stopping.

I’d make it through a lap before the monster would begin to take over. The monster being my horrendous blood sugar which would end up taking a nosedive. My breathing would become shallow, my knees ready to buckle as my sneakers hit the track, and I’d begin to lose control. If I tried to talk, my speech came out slurred and jumbled. I was afraid. But instead of telling anyone I needed help, I hid my weakness until I was able to regain control of my body, which I could usually do by slowing to a walk.

Walking when everyone around you is running is not a great feeling.

My best friends from growing up who I danced with for years

My best friends from growing up who I danced with for years

My blood sugar issue continued to follow me through my high school and college years. As a dancer, I had a few embarrassing episodes during recitals. Front and center during one dance number, the excitement of being center stage reached a peak towards the end of the song and I nearly passed out from the severe drop in my blood sugar. I pretty much wanted to quit life after that moment, and almost gave up on dance all together. I didn’t know what was wrong with my body, and was too afraid to ask for help.

 

Similar to how many young people feel about mental health disorders, I’d imagine.

JMU women's water polo - where I met my college best friends

JMU women’s water polo – where I met my college besties

In college I played club water polo all four years, despite almost drowning during one game my freshman year. I was somehow able to get to the side of the pool – I think one of my teammates may have jumped in after me sensing my level of distress. You’d think I would have dropped the sport at that point out of shame, but I stuck it out. The friendships created through my years of dancing and playing polo were what kept me going. I could struggle through my health issues but didn’t want to let go of those friendships.

This was all happening before the world wide web exploded, so naturally I turned to books to try to understand what was going on with my body. A few I found explained that I was experiencing hypoglycemia or a sudden drop in blood sugar. After mustering up the courage to talk with my family about this weird thing that was happening to me, I learned that both my mom and my brother experienced similar issues. I was never formally diagnosed with a condition, but simply learned how to manage my blood sugar on my own through diet, as many of the books I read advised.

My issues with blood sugar caused me to settle into a comfortable, low-impact workout routine once I graduated from college, got married, and started a family. I’d go to the gym and log 45 minutes on the elliptical, sometimes doing a little weight training, but never pushing myself to do more than I thought I was capable of.

Then one day a friend asked me to run a 5k with her. I figured it would be fun to challenge myself, and I had heard of the Couch-to-5k training plan, so I signed up. Getting outside to run 3-4 times a week was invigorating. Before I knew it, I went from running one minute, walking two, to running five minutes then ten, until eventually I was running the entire 3 miles with limited blood sugar issues. Within the next year I ran two more 5k’s. And just this month I ran my fourth 5k in honor of my friend Anna’s son Jack who tragically left this world too soon.

#running4brave This Is My Brave fundraiser

Lucky Leprechaun 5k in Reston. That’s me in the black knit cap and fluorescent yellow jacket.

I never thought I’d do more than a 5k until I met Annie.

Annie has such a big heart and from the first time I met her it was like we had known each other for years. She told Anne Marie and I that she wanted to train for her first half marathon and at the same time raise money for our This Is My Brave high school program. She’s been blogging about her training and each week on thisismybrave.org. I’m continuously impressed by her drive and commitment to reaching her goal. I couldn’t very well sit on the sidelines knowing that an 8k is only 1.8 more miles than a 5k.

I say “only” now. Sitting here tapping away on my laptop from the comfort of the couch.

But on Thursday¬†I went on a training run and it felt great. I know I can do this, and would love your support. If you believe in me, please donate to our #running4brave fundraiser on Crowdrise. All proceeds will be used to create a This Is My Brave high school program to help teens realize they are not alone in dealing with mental illness. With the money raised we’ll be creating a comprehensive video program featuring teens from our spring productions which we hope to be able to offer to Loudoun County Public Schools this fall as an assembly.

Your contribution will make a difference. Annie and her team of runners has already raised nearly $3,000 and we need your help to get to the overall goal of $5k. Every contribution counts. Thank you so much for your support.

#running4brave

The smell of spring

Wednesday night I went on my second run in preparation for an upcoming 5k. I got home as my husband was finishing up dinner with the kids. By the time bath time was over, the kids were tucked in and stories read, I had to limp back down stairs to clean the kitchen.

I am clearly out of shape, even though at first glance I appear to be fit. I discovered the 5k last fall when I signed up for one in order to force myself to start working out again. It worked, and I went from having to walk most of the 3 miles each day I trained, to being able to run the entire thing by the end. It was awesome. Definitely empowering to know that my body is capable of running a race, actually completing it.

Back in the fall, those thirty-five minutes each weeknight evening or Saturday morning were so calming and thought-provoking for me. I knew I needed to find another one this spring, so I recently signed up for one in early May giving myself a month and a half to get ready.

This is week one of training and it’s been the most perfect weather for running. Slightly cool, mostly sunny, with a light breeze to keep you going. The smells of spring are everywhere around me as I’m running and I find myself taking the deepest breaths possible to make sure I take it all in to the fullest.

My sense of smell is hyperactive. I tie scents to experiences, to specific times in my life. I can recall memories just by taking a whiff of an old perfume or cologne my husband used to wear. It’s kindof weird, but neat at the same time.

When the scent of a season starts to emerge, I sometimes think of two of my hospitalizations. One was in the spring and one was in the fall. The spring one was the most recent, and the spring time was also the season in 2006 when I was diagnosed and then fell into a deep depression for the rest of the year. My parents were with me every step of the way and my mom and I used to go on long walks and we’d pray the rosary as we walked.

I think she prayed because she felt helpless. I felt helpless too, so I followed. I think our prayers were answered many months later when I found the medicine that works for me. My daily tears dried up and I started to enjoy life again. It was incredible.

I think the way the seasons constantly turn helps to remind us of the past and how far we’ve come. And no matter how bad things may be now, they can only get better with time. The next season will be here before we know it.