My, how things change when you’re battling a chronic illness that literally and figuratively is inside your head.
I went to Central Michigan University’s indoor track today and ran. For a couple laps. I ran three. Walked three. Ran four. Walked three. Ran four. Walked two. Nineteen laps total.
Nine times around the track equals one mile. But, until today, I never used to count the laps. I always had counted the minutes … and the miles.
Last year in January I was showing up at the track – it’s where I usually run throughout the cold and icy winter months – and putting in a hard run for 40 solid minutes at least three times each week. I kept a modest pace that translated to about four and a half miles per run.
And I knew my distance by the time on the clock, not the times around the track.
I was a runner then. Not a great one, but a runner nonetheless. A runner who used to think it wasn’t worth my time to go outside and run if I only had time to put in three miles.
Now today, I am a former runner who considers it well worth my precious time to go to the indoor track to put in three laps.
My, how things change.
I don’t think that within a year’s time my Multiple Sclerosis has progressed. In fact, recent MRI scans and my neurologist’s assessment both indicate my disease is stable. No new lesions on my brain or spinal cord. Medically speaking, everything’s in check. But such scans, tests and assessments can’t see what I see.
MS had shaken my confidence.
If you recall in my post last summer, MS be damned, I had a scary fall when I was out for a run. And in that essay I had on my brave face and was planning that I was going to run a 5K race in under 30 minutes before I turned 40. Turns out that was out when I stopped running.
I was scared I’d fall again. I stopped running. Got out of shape. Lost focus. Gained weight. Found excuses. Forgot about what had motivated me to run in the first place.
I always knew I should get back into running, but I needed that “something” that would motivate me and, most importantly, rediscover my faith in God and myself. I found that key in a previous essay I had written for my first graduate English class:
“And it’s about now that I always think to myself that there probably are healthy, able-bodied people out there who would kill themselves if they felt as good as I do, while there are others out there living with more progressive forms of MS who would kill others to feel as bad as I do. These are among the groups of people who push me to run my regular route at least three times each week.”
I’m starting to run again. I walk a little. I run a little. Working to get myself back to where I once was before MS shook my confidence. And of course, as I comfortably finished my first lap running in more than four months, I had the lines of a Springsteen song (“Living Proof”) come to my mind:
You shot through my anger and rage
To show me my prison was just an open cage
There were no keys no guards
Just one frightened man and some old shadows for bars …
Looking for a little bit of God’s mercy
I found living proof
It was me, not the MS, standing in my way of running. It was in my head, figuratively. The power is mine. I’m the one who has the ability to overcome its mental stranglehold on me, counting it all one lap at a time.