I don’t know what I’m doing. Mechanically, I know what I’m doing. I am running, sort of. I am on a training run and I am training for a half marathon. The race is in two months. I won’t be able to run all of it, but I hope I can run at least half of it.
I don’t want to let my thinking dictate or influence my reality. I think that’s possible, like “You are what you eat,” only “You are what you think.” I should say: I may not be able to run the whole thing. My thoughts push and pull between acceptance and inevitability, realism and hope. When you have a disease that people say is incurable, you have these conversations with yourself.
This is what I think during the last mile of every run: I really don’t want to fall. I feel like I am going to fall. I focus on picking up my feet.
Here’s how it is when I run. For the first mile or two, everything feels normal. A flash of hope that this run will be like running used to be, despite the widely accepted belief about my condition: that things only get worse, never better. But pretty soon, my legs get tired and uncoordinated. My feet slap down on the ground, gently at first, then with more gravity. Below the waist, things feel increasingly out of my control. My legs are not numb, but they are not my legs. Soon my toes hit the ground first instead of my heels. I start walking and running in intervals. I walk because I might trip if I keep running. I don’t like to fall. It feels like failing.
When I’m done with my run, I sit for a few minutes and when I get up, I walk like a toddler who is just getting used to being vertical. And then, in a few more minutes, my legs are mine again.
This week was my first week of training for the half marathon. I ran four times; three 3-mile runs (I ran all of these), and one 5-mile run during which I walked about three-quarters of a mile. I did the 3-milers on subsequent days; the first one was great, the second one was a little harder, and the third run on the third day was very slow but I managed to run the whole time. On the 5-miler, I walked a little bit at miles 2 and 3, then about half a mile up a hill. (Once I get tired I don’t try to run uphill because it rapidly increases how tired I get and therefore how far I can go.) It was a good week of training, even if it doesn’t look like the training I used to do.
I think I’m proud that I’m still running, but sometimes I feel foolish. I wonder if running is not meant for me anymore and if I should accept that more gracefully, but I value perseverance and positivity too. I’m not ready to stop running, but it’s difficult to take myself seriously as a runner now. Maybe this is what every aging runner encounters when she slows down. Maybe I shouldn’t give it so much power. I still want to run, so I do. That should be all that matters.