About a month ago I ran a 5K PR (personal record), beating a time from 2012 – before melanoma. Ever since my melanoma diagnosis in April 2013 I had been trying to get back to pre-cancer form and I did it – for about a day.
Despite any common sense, I followed that race with a long run the next day since I was preparing for a half-marathon in a month and it was the only day in my schedule for a long run. Bad idea. So bad I paid for it for the next month, putting in question if I could even run 13.1 miles.
I bounced back and forth between strengthening and stretching, ice and heat, trying to find the combination that would quiet the pain in my right leg, knee and calf.
A week before the race, I tried to run 11 miles. It didn’t go well, I blamed it on the dog and I spent the rest of the week wondering if I should downgrade to a 5K on race day. However, I don’t give in easily, not to myself, not to pain, not to physical limitations. Maybe to my grandkids, but that’s another story.
Here’s where the grace of God comes into play.
In my online feed, a video popped up from The Run Experience on Achilles running injuries. That video was the difference between me running 13.1 miles or not. I rolled out my calf and shin (intense stuff) like the video showed and noticed a remarkable difference. Enough difference to allow me to confidently go for 13.1 and not downgrade on race day.
I credit the rhythm of “Stayin’ Alive” for keeping me loose to the end, placing me third in my age group (surprise! but there were only seven of us) and most importantly, running my third fastest half-marathon time.
Granted, everything flared up again the week after the half, but I have purposely been easing my way back to running, trying to let my body heal so it’s ready for the next half in another month.
I measure my battle against melanoma through physical successes, always aiming for pre-melanoma times, back when I ran with little thought of the precious gift of movement and health. I never take into consideration aging unless it bumps me into a slower age group. I am always measuring myself against the me I remember before melanoma pulled on the reins and yanked the bit out of my mouth.
The thing is, I am now stronger and more fit in many ways than I was before melanoma, however, it’s the time on the clock at the end of the race that matters most, because that means I’ve truly won. I’ve won against time, age, treatments, neuropathy, bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and mostly, melanoma.
I still don’t run the way I wish I could, but I am getting faster. And I’m still running.
My first return to distance racing, I ran a half marathon with my daughter, Stephanie. It was her first half and I beat her by a good chunk of time. She kept running and getting faster with each race. The last race we ran together before my diagnosis, she beat me and it was the fastest pace I’d run in years. A month later I heard the words metastatic melanoma.
She logged her tenth half marathon this month. She keeps getting better with every race and is training for a full marathon this year. We finish in the top of our prospective age groups, with hers being much faster and bigger than mine. But ever since that first race together, as she improved and surpassed me, she’s always told me that she picked up the baton and litterally ran with it when I couldn’t any more.
It’s ironic. My passion has become her fire, has melded us together and provided countless memorable moments to cherish.
Should I measure myself by the time on the clock as I cross the finish line or by each step that has provided memories and fitness to keep me active and vital for my family? Either way, I’m not going to stop running or trying.