One, two, three, four. Step by step the path flew by underneath my feet. In truth it was probably far more sluggish than that, but I hadn’t been out running in two full months so this felt pretty spectacular. Sure, my muscles and my lungs screamed a bit, but not enough to dampen my euphoria.
In some ways I would like to say I’m glad to see the back of 2015, the year I was diagnosed with MS. But 2015 was also the year I got engaged, it was the year we settled into our new home, it was the year I finally made it to Iceland and it was the year I ran my first half marathon. As years go, 2015 was pretty great.
I’m not a believer in allowing one bad moment to define an entire year, provided there are enough positives in there to balance it all out.
My plan was to run a marathon this year but now I’m not so sure. I wouldn’t say I’ve given up, but I’m approaching it from a more realistic point of view. I 100% believe that if I put my mind and my time to it, I could run one this year. But even for those in good health, training for a marathon is a huge undertaking. Throw in the added complications of MS and all its drama, and it makes following any sort of training plan near impossible.
Training for the half marathon alone was tough – it meant 2hr runs on a Saturday morning followed by an afternoon in bed to recover, and I often had very little energy in the days that followed. If work was busy, I just didn’t have the energy to make it out the door for my midweek runs. When I pushed myself, muttering it’s all mind over matter, I found myself facing foot spasms and crippled with fatigue to the point I sometimes crawled up the stairs to bed on my hands and knees.
I don’t want to face that this year. I want to enjoy planning our wedding, I want to save my energy for that and for filling our precious weekends with trips to Glendalough and walks along Sandymount strand. I want to save my energy this year for all the other beautiful things that life has on offer. That’s not to say I’m giving up on exercise – I 100% need it to stay in good mental health more than anything else – but I need to find a way to make it work with my MS and not against it. And I’m not saying no to ever running a marathon, I just don’t think it’s the right thing for me this year. And I’ve found it hard to admit that.
I was so determined to do the half marathon last year and I’m so glad I did. The training got me through the early days of my diagnosis when MS occupied my every thought and running gave me some level of control back. I felt free when I ran and it was a constant for me in a world that had become so uncertain. It helped me to process it all.
It’s funny, before I ever started running, in the days when I thought it was never for me, I used to have these running dreams. They stopped as soon as I took it up. But then MS reared its head and the dreams returned and I remember lying in hospital wishing for nothing other than the ability to go out running. In the months that followed, I enviously watched other runners with a sadness I can’t explain, wondering if I’d ever run like that again or be close to that level of fitness.
I still remember my first run after that relapse. It was March 2016 and it was probably barely more than 2k, but I felt like I’d run a marathon that day.
And that’s the thing; I was as proud of myself that day as I was the day I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon and the day I crossed the finish line of my first ever 5k.
We sometimes forget that life is what happens every day and the biggest highs often come from what may seem the smallest feats. So here’s to everything 2016 may bring and to the beautiful marathon that is life. Find yours and be proud of yourself no matter what it is.