There are wonderful stories about people who accomplish great things against all odds. This is not one of them.
On a sunny but cool morning on October 12, 2014 I was less than 2 miles to completing marathon number 8. I’m getting punchy and (not making this up), “Don’t Stop Believin’ makes it to the top of my playlist shuffle. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. Then I do.
I put the song on repeat and make the final push to a 4:21:56 PR finish. I cry some more. I try to find my boyfriend in the crowd. I eat a banana. I need a beer. I tell my boyfriend that I think I’m done with marathons. I was happy. Something inside me said that it wouldn’t get better than this.
Not long after I got bit by the bug again. Why not shoot for lucky number 9? Nine had a nice ring to it. And why not sign up for the triathlon too? It’s two months before the marathon and I got a new road bike. I was sure I could do both. I was at peak Julie! I could do anything!
It’s spring 2015 and I started biking the 16+ round trip to work. I still reserved Saturday mornings for running. I figured I could swim once or twice during the week and on Sunday and be in good shape for the sprint distance. I was (and still am) a terrible swimmer. It went well for a while. I was happy to keep things casual until real training began.
An annual trip to the vet disrupted everything. My ten year old dog showed the early signs of degenerative myelopathy, which is comparable to ALS in humans. I was devastated and did everything to convince myself that it wasn’t true. I took her to another vet that focused more on a holistic approach to healing. She suggested a grain free diet to reduce any inflammation on that might be causing the symptoms, we tried water-walking therapy to strengthen her back leg muscles, I cooked real food for her to help eliminate any chance that cheap contaminated dog would worsen an already bad situation. For a time, she ate better than I did.
I drank wine to take the edge off and devoted most of my free time to taking care of that dog. How could I not? She didn’t deserve to be sick. I could still be active, but training would have to wait. I felt guilty leaving her alone. When I would go out for a run, my heart wasn’t completely in it. Around the same time, my boyfriend got sick. He was diagnosed with Chrone’s as a child and was having a particularly bad time of it.
I couldn’t get my head in the game after that. Running long distances got more and more difficult. I felt heavy. Mid-way through what should have been a fairly easy run, I’d feel a sensation like someone giving me a hug I didn’t want. I’d stop my run and sit and wonder what the hell I was even doing. I couldn’t get out of my head.
In August, I stopped training for the marathon, but I was in good enough shape and had an OK first triathlon sprint. Afterward I didn’t feel like I’d accomplished anything. Another thing to weigh on my mind.
I spent the next couple of years trying to get my mojo back. I thought maybe I could run a 2016 marathon, but fell into a similar pattern. My dog got a wheelchair, then a stroller, and lived another year before we had to make the call. My boyfriend got better after a few months and eventually became my husband. We got a new dog. Despite having a damn good life, I still find myself trying to be the girl I was five years ago. Running is more difficult I’m a lot slower and plagued by a series of “what ifs” and a nagging pain in my leg.
I received a marketing email from Imerman Angels charity running and it touched a nerve. I stopped thinking about myself. I thought maybe I could try for the elusive number 9 and do some good. Training starts in two weeks and I’m a bit terrified, but hope thinking about the bigger picture will keep me motivated.
So, I’m starting from zero.