I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ran outdoors for the first time since June 4. All I knew is it was cool, dark and desolate. Perfect for some soul soothing with each footfall.
My grandmother did not go swiftly. She lasted almost a week without food or water, aided only by a morphine patch as her organs systematically shut down. The last of her urine came out crystals. Her necrotic feet turned deep blue. And still she held on in a semi-comatose state, leaving all of us to privately wonder if we’d done right by denying her a feeding tube. No one expected this fight, and certainly not from someone 99 years old.
My little sister banged up more than her small SUV during that car crash on her way to church. She came to live with us while she healed from delicate neck surgery involving cadaver parts and titanium plates. Two cooped-up drama queens with similar DNA, one in constant need of painkillers, played out just as you’d expect.
During all the turmoil, I had trouble regaining ground on the job. I work for a small company, where 20 people do the work of 200. And, despite my predictions in my last post, I remain the family’s sole breadwinner. [Two days before my husband’s final certification exam, the testing center mysteriously shut down.] I started letting people down, which in turn caused me to feel down. That glumness just grew when even the American Red Cross, desperate for donations, rejected me and my iron-poor blood. I was in bad shape. That much became clear just 10 minutes into the run.
I’d told myself I’d walk up the big hills, but the first of several was behind me by the time I realized it. There’s a bright street lamp that I always used as a checkpoint. My stopwatch typically would read somewhere between 14:30 and 15 minutes at this point. I looked down and saw 14:04. Huh?!
I definitely needed to run for an hour, preferably two, to reach a breakthrough in this moving therapy session, but within 30 minutes the pain in my hip announced itself. I wisely stopped.
The same for the next time. And the next after that. Thirty-minute runs were my temporary limit; thus, I became the Rachael Ray of Running. What could I whip up with some basic, healthful ingredients – shoes, socks, shirt, shorts and a stopwatch -- in under a half hour? How much ground could I cover? How many bio breaks to comply with new regulations? Elites surely would scoff at my form and my pace, much as foodies like to lambaste Rachael Ray for her no-fuss approach to meals.
Before I knew it, I had settled into a new routine. I ran before work most days. I went to the gym immediately after on others. I held steady with the occasional evening walk. I kept in mind the stern words of surgeons the day I got a clean bill of health: “Do not ever expect to run more than five miles – and five miles might be pushing it.” “No, I’m afraid you’re done running marathons.” “You need to treat your body as it now is, not as it once was.”
I’m hitching my future on that last statement, given it provides the widest interpretation. What my body is now is stronger and healthier than it’s been in a long time. I can even show my toes in public! Besides, if Rachael Ray can be everywhere, so can I. If she can brush off critics and laugh all the way to the bank, surely I can exceed those surgeons’ expectations. And to rave reviews.