I was on the treadmill yesterday listening to my favorite running playlist--Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Imagine Dragons, Pitbull, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Jay-Z, Macklemore--they were all cheering me on. It was the same running playlist I used just a few years ago, when I jogged at least three times a week. When I signed up for 5Ks in the fall and spring every year. When I trained for the last half-marathon I would run.
I’ve loved running since I was in college. I discovered my love when I was working at a summer camp after my sophomore year. I jumped on a treadmill during rec time, just to kill some time. The place was empty, except for the teenagers attending the camp. I’ve always been self-conscious about exercising in front of people. So with no one watching, I started a slow jog. I’m not sure how much I ran that first time, but I liked how I felt afterwards. I liked having a goal to work toward for the next time. I liked that I could do it.
From that point until very recently, I jogged. In parks, in neighborhoods, in gyms. Alone, with friends, with my husband, with my sisters, with my nieces. Pregnant, pushing a jogging stroller, then a double jogging stroller, alongside my children riding their bikes. Before my kids’ baseball games, during soccer practice, after school. With my exchange student, Mara. At home, in Florida on the beach, in Dresden alongside the river, in the Texas heat and the Illinois wind.
For my entire adult life, jogging has been a routine, a staple, a love. It has been a necessity. A part of who I am and how I keep going.
My last serious run, a half marathon I did with my husband, was the only one I did not run every step of. The pain was excruciating. The training had not gone well. My running was getting worse, not better. During the race, my entire body hurt in a way that was not normal for running. It felt like I was on fire.
I had issues with running before, but so does everyone. My feet always hurt. They would give out before anything else. My knees hurt sometimes. But at this race, my elbows were hurting. My wrists. My upper chest, near my collarbone. My ankles. My hips. My hands. And all my muscles felt strange and weak, when they shouldn’t have.
Usually after a couple days of rest, I am ready to jog again. Even after a couple of weeks, I still had a hard time moving. The pain never stopped. I never recovered from that race.
It took nearly a year of doctor appointments and tests, but I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia and small fiber neuropathy. I rejected the diagnosis at first. I didn’t want to have a chronic disorder. I didn’t want to have something wrong with me that came with a stigma. I didn’t want something wrong I couldn’t fix.
Part of the disease is a resistance to exercise. While I need to move, too much exercise will put me into a painful flare that could last a day or a week or a month. I have to be careful. It also means that I do not have the strength or endurance to jog the way I used to anyway. This has been quite difficult for me to accept.
Yesterday on the treadmill, I jogged at an extremely slow pace at one-minute intervals. I only did a mile and a quarter. Twenty minutes. That was all my body could handle.
But at some point in the jog/walk, Alicia Keys started singing about a girl on fire. I chuckled to myself, because I often describe the pain as fire or burning. I muttered to Alicia, “You got that right. I am definitely walking on fire.”
Then I nudged up the speed to 4.0 and did my one-minute slow jog. And I laughed as I listened to the song. My body burns with pain; I am on fire. But even though I “am filled with catastrophe, I know I can fly anyway.” Heck, yes, I’m on fire. I’m now in my forties and have a chronic pain disorder--and I “have both feet on the ground, and I’m burning it down.” I felt triumphant in that brief moment, on my treadmill in what used to be our dining room. I’m doing it, even if I never get faster or go farther, I’m doing this right now! I am jogging, at the best pace I can. I am on fire right now!
I’m “not backing down.” I’m just finding a new way to run in the flames and embers.
Welcome to my Blog! I am a wife, mother of three, high school English teacher, and a graduate of the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. Before anything else, I am a woman of faith.