I've been a recreational runner for almost 20 years. I didn't start until I was in college. I was always in good shape, but usually opted for aerobics, step classes, and a Stairmaster, and I had a short love affair with the Reebok ice-skating slide thing. I can't remember why I decided to try running, but I did, and I still love it (most of the time!).
To the contrary, I've been a rheumatology patient for only seven months. Once the bloodwork was drawn, the diagnosis came quickly, albeit after 5 years of wrist pain and a resulting surgery. Overnight, I transitioned from a girl who was training for a marathon to a girl who needed a pillbox. (Note: I decided I will start referring to myself as a woman when I hit 40.) That first appointment with my doctor was a lot of listening while trying to keep the directions for the meds straight; I realized later that I didn't ask a single question.
While I still feel like I am settling from the bounce of learning I have a chronic illness, one of my earliest frustrations was searching for information for runners with RA and not finding anything of substance: nothing about managing side effects while logging miles, nothing about being concerned whether or not hard efforts would cause my misbehaving immune system to rebel further, and, most importantly, no commiseration for those of us who consider ourselves to be athletes but felt like nothing of the sort.
This past Monday, April 15, 2013, I went for a run in a local park. For reasons related to both RA and non-RA issues, my running has been sporadic since I found out about the RA this past September. But the day was nice, I was feeling good, and I wanted to RUN. It was short, only 2.5 miles, but it was enough to have what I thought was a landmark mental moment. And the following text to my husband, Sean, ensued:
I'm still a little amused that apparently we had an entire conversation about this that I don't remember. I even thought I came up with the name while running. I'm not much of a drinker, and it doesn't take much for it to go to my head. :-)
Then... I came home, showered, cleaned around the house for a bit and turned on the TV... and saw the images from Boston. I was chilled as my mind immediately recapped all the times Sean and the kids have waited for me at finish lines, and I was stunned by the time on the finish line clock: 4:09. That's the sort of runner I am right now. About 9:45-10:00 min/mile. That's the marathoner I was training to be for the Steamtown Marathon last year before I decided that the wrist pain was just too much. Like Americans everywhere, I turned into a puddle of tears. Not just for the victims, our country, our kids, our neighborhoods, our schools, but also for the running community. Events will never be the same, organizers everywhere will have new considerations, and runners will always be wary. Or, maybe not. Maybe with time a sense of normalcy will return. We can only hope.
I take my methotrexate on Tuesday nights before I go to bed, so Wednesdays are usually pretty crappy for me. Like every Wednesday since September, I opened my eyes this morning to the oppressing, familiar nausea. Like every Wednesday since September, Sean asked upon waking, "How are you feeling?" Like every Wednesday since September, I got the kids fed, dressed and off to school. The one thing I haven't done yet since September is to try to run on a Wednesday. I've done some lazy, easy swims a few times, and while it never went well, I was just determined to do something in addition to concentrating on not puking. Despite feeling like a mess, I felt a deep need to try to run today. So I did. It was only a labored, slow two miles, but I ran. And while running, I decided that it didn't hurt to give this blog thing a try. As I slowed to a walk approaching my driveway, I took a deep breath, happy to have done it, and grateful for that fresh, clear-lung feeling that seems to last all day. On a less picturesque side note, I did end up puking a little later in the day after a dumb attempt at a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats. It was the first time I got physically sick from the meds, but at least I ran! Next Wednesday I'll just stick with the usual chicken broth!
If you are a runner with rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune disease, I'd love to hear how you manage the side effects of the medications and the challenges of the illness while continuing to be active.
Thanks for reading!