This post has been a long-time coming. A few weeks ago I even had one mostly written, but my computer crashed and I lost it all, which destroyed my desire to write another word for a good long while.
Back in mid-June, around three weeks recovery from surgery, I started running again. At the risk of sounding Drama, it’s been a bit life-changing, hence this post.
For years, I’ve been a casual, on-again-off-again, I-hate-running runner. Years ago, maybe five or seven, I went on a running bender that lasted several months. I put a shelf over the arms of my treadmill, set my laptop there, and binge watched a bunch of tv. It was winter and I was behind on a lot of shows, so I racked up miles and miles. Then it got nice out and, not knowing better, I immediately switched to running outside full time. It didn’t take long for me to develop an injury, first the tensor fascia latae and eventually iliotibial band issues. So I’d take a week off, pain after a half mile run; take two weeks off, pain after a half mile run. I could go for a seven-mile walk and feel awesome afterwards; running perhaps was not in my future. Walking was more time consuming, but I liked not hurting.
Occasionally I tried running again, like last year when I completed Couch25K, but in general, though I seemed to be past the injury thing, I never enjoyed myself doing it. Between normal seasonal heat and cold and rain and my own innate laziness, I never ran more than a couple weeks in a row.
This spring, I gave it another try. Winter was cold and therefore rather sedentary, and though another Couch25K was not necessary, I figured I should start easy. I began by running a minute, walking two minutes in repeated intervals. Over several weeks, I increased the running in small increments, so eventually I was running two, walking one. It wasn’t horrible! And I took Camp. He was a reluctant running buddy, but it was fun to have him with me. In mid-April we got Kira, who could run five marathons a day. He wants to do whatever she is doing, so the running thing looked like it might work out. Yay, running with dogs! We were working up to three-mile runs and it was going well. Yay! Then I got my diagnosis.
Long, introspective walks felt more therapeutic during those few weeks before surgery. Recovery went well and by the second or third week of June, I decided to accompany Stuart on one of his morning runs. He was getting up at 5:15 and trying to run with both dogs, which I knew from experience was challenging. We only went a couple miles, but I felt great. Motion is lotion, I’ve been told, and moving was a hell of a lot better than not, especially since I was still limited on how much I could lift and do with my arms. After a few outings, I was ready for more. I should probably mention that Stuart, a dedicated weight lifter, prefers his relationship with cardio to be a strictly 30 minute, three times per week arrangement. He had no interest in going farther than his usual warm-up plus two-and-a-half miles. Also I thought staying in bed cuddling with Camp sounded much nicer than hitting the pavement at stupid-early o’clock with him and High-Energy Dog. So Stuart kept going out with Kira and I started running by myself after he left for work. The dogs didn’t seem to mind staying behind, as long as they got a walk after I got home.
My oncologist told me that the number one thing I could do to prevent a cancer recurrence was to exercise. Also, two common complaints of tamoxifen are weight gain and aching joints. Exercise, along with magnesium supplements, is recommended to deal with joint pain. Fortunately I haven’t noticed any major side effects, but apparently that can change at any time and I really don’t want to ever get cancer again. So it seemed like a no-brainer to give running more than my usual past efforts.
Because of my history with injury and my desire to have the running thing actually stick this time, I decided to try the Galloway Run-Walk-Run plan, similar to the rhythm I was doing pre-diagnosis. I started with 3 minute run, 1 minute walk intervals, going for three miles three or four times a week. I was amazed at how good it made me feel. The small, noticeable improvements, along with my returning range of motion, made me feel like I was reclaiming my body. Taking back my wholeness after having my chest cut apart. I was doing something for me and my health, something that gave me confidence and purpose and a feeling that my old-lady cancer-body was not done yet.
I was so into the running thing that after a month or so I started to flirt with the idea of a half marathon. This was mid-July and the marathon that caught my eye was the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon, a local favorite on 20 October. 14 weeks to train, and most of the beginner half marathon training programs I looked at were a 12-week time frame. I was already running (run-walk) three miles and digging it, why not? I wanted to increase my distance and this gave me an end for my goal of “running more”.
So I bought a second pair of shoes, signed up for a 5K, joined a facebook group of women runners, and even started going to bed early on Friday nights to accommodate 6am Saturday long runs. I went for a group run with those women runners and found other people doing intervals. Around then I switched my ratio to 90 seconds run/30 seconds walk. It was a good choice–I didn’t really need a full minute of walking any more but the heat was making three minutes feel like a lifetime. I totally credit intervals with being able to run through the summer. I’ve remained injury free and I don’t dread hitting the pavement, much different than my prior experience!
Also different is not having to wear a sports bra. Running bra free is a revelation. Like, I can’t really describe how liberating and wonderful it is. I remember the first or second time I went out with Stuart and I was so amazed and I asked him if that’s what it’s like to be a guy. Seriously. Bras are a necessary evil. The cute/sexy/fun ones are often barely functional. Even the well designed ones kinda suck, and though one would think that bra-designers and bra-designing companies would have figured out how to fashion one that is at least moderately comfortable by now, that is not the case. Not needing to wear a bra at all any more, but especially not needing to wear a sports bra, is the tiniest speck of a silver lining in this whole cancer-getting, breast-losing shit sundae.