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May 14, 2010 / Meg

My Running History

I’m running my second 5k tomorrow!  Well…technically it’s my fourth, but the first one my friends and I walked together, and the second one I ended up walking after attempting to run for 5 minutes.

Running a 5k is a huge accomplishment for me. Growing up, I suffered from severe exercise induced asthma. I passed out during the mile run in my gym class in 7th grade.  I woke up in the nurse’s office, and then my mom took me to the hospital.  After loads of EKGs and other heart tests (my dad’s heart is actually tilted and on the right side of his body, not the left, so they automatically assumed I had heart problems – fortunately, my heart is A OK!), in addition to a whole lot of time spent at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, it was determined that I had Paradoxical Vocal Cord Dysfunction.

PVCD, when combined with my exercise-induced asthma, was a scary combination that required a lot of therapy, medicine, and diet restrictions. Basically, I couldn’t have anything acidic because in my case, the acid would stay in my vocal cords and cause lots of problems.  [Side note: I think this may be one of the reasons why I’m deathly allergic to oranges and related citrus fruits today.  I, of course, am not a doctor and can’t prove anything, but it makes sense to me.]  When I would run, I would not only have an asthma attack, but my vocal cords would also twist and block my airway. It was a nasty thing to deal with (as if middle school isn’t tough enough), and I must say that the problem stayed with me throughout college.

I was pretty much told I’d never be a runner (or an athlete, for that matter), and although I could play softball, I really shouldn’t stretch it beyond that.  I was a dancer my whole life, and apparently that’s what I was supposed to focus on.  And up until a few years ago, that was alright with me.

Enter my freshman year of college and one major, major knee problem.  I blew out my knee my freshman year of college (while dancing), and the only way to fix it required major surgery.  I injured my knee in September but because the surgery required such a long recovery, I couldn’t have surgery until May.  I had to wear a knee brace my entire freshman year of college that prevented my knee from dislocating.  It fit under a lot of my pants, but not always.  And I was on crutches for a while too.  (Please note that I always manage to make embarrassing life periods even more embarrassing.  I’m cool like that.)  I had patellae realignment surgery, which (warning: gross content) required my doctor to detach my calf muscle, shave off a piece of my shin bone, and screw the piece of my shin bone onto my patellae to prevent it from further dislocation. I warned you it was gross!

Fortunately, it was worth it because it fixed everything.  Unfortunately, I gained a few pounds in the year-long adventure from the initial injury to the end of recovery, and when I was finally able to work out again, I was limited to the elliptical.  I lost 20 pounds, got back into a regular exercise routine, and then eventually became a group exercise instructor.  (I teach Turbo Kick [cardio kickboxing] and PiYo [pilates-yoga fusion].  They’re pretty much the bomb dot com.  Check them out at http://www.turbokick.com)

Then, I just wanted to run.  And NOT on the elliptical.  I just wanted to run without restrictions.  I hadn’t had a PVCD problem or an asthma attack in over a year, and I told myself that these problems would neither hold me back nor stop me from achieving my goals.  At the time, I had moved to the South, suffered a stress fracture in the same knee I had surgery on, and eaten wayyyy too much friend chicken – so yes, there were plenty of goals. 😉

I started running on the treadmill when it was cold and ran outside when the weather permitted.  I followed the Couch to 5k program religiously, but somehow decided to run a 5k in the 4th week of the program.  I ran most of it, and walked when I had to.  I finished with a time of 38:50, with no expectations whatsoever.  I was proud and couldn’t believe what I had accomplished.

And then I quit running for a few months, because it got really cold and I was traveling and interviewing at different seminaries and I let life get in the way.  I jumped back into it – except that I didn’t really know where to jump back into it, since I had completed a 5k already.  So I picked week 6 or something, and then jumped to week 8, and before I knew it, I was running 40 minutes straight. No walking.  Outside.  In this crazy South Carolina heat.  Over hills and around neighborhoods.  And for a moment, I couldn’t even fathom what I had accomplished.

My sister ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon a few weeks ago without even training for it.  She clearly gets her athleticism genes from my father, who played football and track & field back in the day.  As for me, I take after my mother: a baton twirling chica with loads of knee problems. I may have gotten the shorter end of the stick, but it won’t stop me from competing!  I‘ve made it my new goal to compete in the Pittsburgh half marathon next year (hopefully final exams won’t interfere with the schedule!).  I’ll be happy to run alongside my sister, and hopefully complete something even doctors said I would never be able to do.

The point of this very long, not very exciting post is this:  Don’t let anything hold you back.  You can do it.  And when you do, enjoy every second!

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a PR in my 5k tomorrow!  🙂  Hope y’all have a great weekend!

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