A few months ago, a radio announcer asked listeners what they would do if fear was not an obstacle. I thought about that and knew instantly how I would answer. Run a marathon. I signed up for my first marathon that week. You see, I had been toying with the idea of marking five years, melanoma free by doing something I’d always wondered if I could accomplish.
While running 26.2 miles seems daunting to many, I’ve been a distance runner since I was a teen, so we’re looking at nearly 55 years of logging miles, some as long as half marathons. Since then though, I’ve fought cancer, a bulging disc, spinal stenosis, neuropathy and age, but I keep running because nothing else makes me feel as good as miles on the road. I just wish my body would always agree with my head.
My running through the years changed, depending what stage my life was at. During the years of having young children, I ran for sanity, sometimes logging distance in the dark around an industrial storage facility, which was the only place I could run while my husband got ready for work each day. I gave up racing because of cost and time, but I couldn’t give up running.
My kids grew up seeing me head out the door for runs. My daughter admits she thought I was nuts (aren’t all runners?). Eventually, I started signing up for races again, did a half marathon again – after a lapse of about 30 years at that distance – when my daughter took her first stab at a half marathon, ran one of my fastest paces in decades in a 10K race with my daughter and a month later found out I had metastatic melanoma.
The day I got the phone call from the clinic, I remember thinking, how can this be? The month before I was running fast (for me at least) and now melanoma? It felt like going from 90 mph to 0 in an instant.
That was almost five years ago – that magical cancer milestone of five years cancer free.
Besides the family vacation I requested to celebrate, I had to mark this milestone in a significant manner. Not only is five years of no evidence of disease (NED) a reason to dance, I’m not getting any younger, hitting birthday milestone of 60 years in March.
Crazy time to try and run 26.2 miles, right?
But the fear that clouded my mind until the radio announcer put forth that challenge, was the fear of the injuries and setbacks I’ve dealt with in the past five years of trying to maintain a running habit.
I had to stop running twice because of costochondritis (which can feel like a heart attack). I’ve run with torn hamstrings – on both sides – neuropathy in my feet, muscle inflammation from treatments, spinal issues from age. I teach group exercise classes four days a week, which isn’t always conducive to training, so yes, fear cast a big cloud on the dream of completing a marathon. Who wants to pay $80 to come up lame? I have a full-time job and a couple of part-time jobs and finding time to rest adequately can be hard, but is especially important for cancer survivors.
Yet, if I let fear guide me, I’d not only miss the early bird registration discount (money can be a motivator), I’d probably always find an excuse to back away from this challenge and look back and wonder why I didn’t at least try.
Given my injury prone nature, counting back from the Sept. 23 race date, it’s time to slowing start building up to the hard training I have to do this summer.
Casting fear aside, I look to the same faith that guided me nearly five years ago – everything will turn out as it should, not necessarily as I want it to, but as it should. I know I won’t run fast. I’ve realized at this stage in my life the race goes to the one who never gives up, who keeps moving, who stays strong, to the one who crosses the finish line, no matter the pace.
What would you do if fear wasn’t an obstacle?