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April 7 - To Run

Imagine losing the ability to play your favorite sport.  Not for a day or a week, but for many months, years
or even the rest of your life.  Three years ago, running became my sport of choice.  I can imagine being
sidelined for months - because that just happened to me (it sure as hell was not fun), but never running
again is unfathomable.

I've always been an athlete - soccer, skiing, figure skating - but I was never a "runner".  Wait, you say, but
don't you play soccer?  I'm a goalie, and goalies don't run (we should, but we don't).  Running was a
chore, it was boring, it was painful and I was not very fast.  I never knew or appreciated how truly great
running is, until the day I couldn't do it anymore.

I heard an ad one day on the radio: "Want to run a marathon?  Join the Cystic Fibrosis team to raise
money for the cause and run the marathon."  I still haven't figured out what possessed me to sign up.  
CF is a great cause, but I didn't know anyone personally with the disease.  The best explanation I can
give is that running a marathon (once), was on my life's checklist.

I spent all summer training with the group - my teammates are the best people I have ever met.  They
couldn't have been nicer, funnier or more supportive.  I had to keep my "appointment" each week for the
group long run.  Making the running a social event made it MUCH easier - particularly when
commiserating about sore feet, sore legs, fatigue, life, etc.  They all understood.  And to this day, I have
not yet met a runner I don't like.

Running improved my soccer game.  My goal kicks and punts were heaps better than they ever had
been.  Ninety minutes of regulation would end and I would say, "that's it??!"

Somewhere in the marathon circus, I got hooked.  Maybe it was having someone to talk to for hours on
end, the endorphins, the way I felt smarter after a run, the fact that I looked and felt awesome and could
eat anything I wanted, or maybe it was just that running had become as important to me as sleeping,
eating and breathing.

I ran my first marathon in October 2002, and finished in about 4 and a half hours.  Within a DAY of the
race, I said, 'I know I can run it faster'.  In my subconscious, I have this crazy notion that I can eventually
qualify for the Boston Marathon (3:40 is my qualifying time).

The second marathon didn't go as well as the first.  I fell at mile 4 (and out of 26, that was early in the
race).  I had shredded my knees, but knew if I stopped to get them cleaned up I wouldn't want to finish.  I
ended up walking the last 5-7 miles.  I finished in just under 5 hours, but it was extremely disappointing.

What was even more upsetting than falling apart in #2, was not being able to run my third marathon
because of injury.  I spent 7 months training in shoes I should not have been wearing.  I had a veteran
triathlete tell me so.  For someone who goes through a pair of running shoes every two weeks, he ought
to know (THANKS, Eli!)  I threw my knee out of whack and for a good month or two, I could hardly walk.  It
was BAD.

Taking running away from me, was like taking a toy away from a toddler.  A kid would throw a huge fit
and scream bloody murder.  I wasn't far off from that state.  I was horribly depressed, angry, and grouchy
for several months on end - I could not envision my life without running.  I was told I had to stop running
and get medical treatment if I wanted to run again (ever) - and to buy proper shoes.

I learned through my experience, how much I took walking and running for granted.  I was upset with
myself for all the times I had slacked and skipped a run because I just didn't feel like it.  The only thing I
wanted was to be able to run again - I didn't want birthday presents or Christmas presents!

I had three months of physical therapy and at the beginning of 2005, was able to get back on an elliptical
machine.  I did that and lifted weights 3 times a week, and somewhere in mid-February, it was like a
switch was thrown.  I was a happier, more agreeable person, and I could walk without pain.  I was still a
ways off from running, but it was a start.

After 9 months of recovery, I am getting closer to my goal.  I ran a 5K this past weekend, in 32:00.  For
someone coming off of an injury like mine, and having a 30mph head wind in the last half of the race,
that's a pretty good time.  While I'm not 100%, I am making satisfying progress.

My trainer says as long as I'm not trying to qualify for Boston, I can run the marathon again this year.  And
that's all I want - to be able to run.