Friday, August 31, 2012

Thirty years of running

Me finishing my first marathon 28 years ago. Over the next few years, I became faster but now I can't even run a mile at the pace I ran the marathon.

I started running sometime right before the Labor Day Weekend in 1982. I had just given up nursing Josh. I kept trying to extend my unpaid leave hoping that maybe, just maybe Josh would start sleeping through the night (he finally did several years later) but the workplace wasn't especially friendly to mothers in those days. I tried to pump ( with an old fashioned hicky-inducing hand pump) for a few weeks after I returned but this was getting old real fast.

It doesn't take much for me to convert from normal weight to obesity. Pregnancy especially I found was obesity inducing. I had gained 80 pounds with Shanna (but lost it all before she was 1) even though I had severe nausea for the first few months. Steve would not believe my whines about how bad I felt while noshing non-stop on bland food. I was more careful with Josh gaining a mere 60 but even though I was keeping him in the 99+%tile with breast milk alone, I was not losing. I swam and biked, both time consuming and especially hard to find time for with 2 little ones. I had run before gradually increasing to 3 miles but I hated every minute of it. Running seemed to be such hard work. There was a time I could swim further than I could run (2.5 swimming record). But I was tired of being fat.

My workplace was perched on a hill. Until this fatness went away, I vowed to run at lunch instead of eating. Then hopefully, the swimming would maintain my normal weight. The first time out, I ran a mile (steep downhill..I had good cardiovascular health due to the swimming) and I walked back. My labmates scoffed, anyone can run down hill, try running up it. By the end of 2 weeks, I could. After 6 weeks, I entered my first race, a 10K (Ann Arbor-Dexter, the reverse of Dexter-Ann Arbor). The running team, which was encouraging me, was running their race their weekend in the Irish Hills. I didn't think I was ready for hills yet. My race would be confined to the river valley though slightly uphill. My record for running was 4 miles without stopping. I thought I could run 5 miles and then walk the rest. I did the whole 6.2 miles without stopping though it took more than an hour. A year later, I could do it in 46 minutes (which would yield me a trophy). At some point, running started becoming easy. I became faster and faster as the weight dropped. In small races, I would place fairly high in my age group.

There has been only a few times that I haven't run. When I was 6 months pregnant with Naomi, during one run contractions started. This had happened before but up to that point, the contractions disappeared when I stopped running. The last time, it took a long time for them to subside and I was afraid. I switched to swimming and resuming running when she was a week old (very hard). When she was30 months old, my undiagnosed Graves' Disease (which I probably had on and off for 2 years)had progressed to this condition called thyroid storm. I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I showed up at the ER. It took a few weeks for the thyroid levels to subside to the point it was safe to run. Five years ago, I was bragging how lucky I was that I had been running for so long without a serious injury. That would learn me. Shortly after, I tripped on a tree root while running and broke my arm. It could not be set. It took 3 months to heal (and another 6 months to recover from frozen shoulder). During that time, all I could do was walk. Then cancer. I ran in the days following my surgeries though I could hear liquid sloshing in the surgical cavity. Also, it is really hard to keep the breasts motionless even with the tight bandages they supply. I tried to run during chemo. It was very, very difficult. My red blood cells went way down so I was easily exhausted. At some point, the best I could do was run a minute without stopping. I had 16 long weeks of chemo in the dead of winter. With each cycle, I would lose more and more energy. I didn't even try to run during the last cycle though I would walk. I started running while I was doing radiation.

All in all, I've run almost 38,000 miles ( I keep records as I am so weird). This amounts to more than 1000 pounds of fat. Yet I am not 1000 pounds underweight. I am fat! How unfair is that! A zillion excuses. The combo of cancer, hypothyroidism, menopause, orthopedic injuries has made the last 8 years a gradual slide into corpulence. I have lost the chemo steroid induced weight. I am firm but still there is way too much of me. This summer I have added biking..almost 900 miles since May. I haven't weighed myself in over a year. Maybe I have lost weight but my clothes aren't particularly baggy. At some point, I will figure out what I have to do. I will keep running even though I am so slow that some characterize it as 'power walking'.

Labor Day marks the end of summer. Sigh. The pool will close Monday. Already the UM students are back. Today it will be 94. Fortunately it was cool this morning for my run and a short bike ride after.

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