“Don’t compare yourself to others,
Compare yourself to the person you were yesterday.”
I don’t know who said that quote, but it is one I have had to (re) learn over the past 2 years.
It is hard for me think that just two years ago I was running 3-6 miles a day at a 9-11 minute pace. Back then, I remember feeling like I was really slow – if only I could run faster.
Today, after being out of the running so to say, I wish I could run 3-6 miles again – at any pace! This was the motivation for setting my 2023 goals this year.
I have missed running. I have missed lacing up my shoes, popping my headphones on, setting my watch, and just going wherever my feet would take me. I have missed the mental release, as well as the mental connect. There is something about running that just feels free to me. It can set the pace and the mood for the rest of my day. I have missed that.
I have tried off and on throughout this time to get back out there. I walked. I walk/ran. I did short distances. It always ended the same. I hurt. I was extremely fatigued. I couldn’t get my breathing to cooperate. This time last year, I thought I was done forever. I went out for a short 1 mile run. I didn’t make it half a mile before I was barely even walking. I limped home, in tears. My legs hurt so bad I could barely stand on them.
After a lot of research, talking to my doctors, talking to fellow leukemia patients with similar complaints, I made some changes. Leukemia can deplete your body of certain vitamins and minerals over time. Blood tests showed I was extremely low in Vitamins B, D and in Magnesium.
I have spent this past year really focusing on my nutrition. I have cut things out, added things in. I have upped my vitamin game and have my levels back in normal range for now. My leg pain still presents itself occasionally, but not like it was. It is tolerable now.
I have also spent this past year watching people run. It is funny how many people you see running when you drive down the road wishing you could be out there running. I have read with conflicting feelings, the distances they would run and the times they would run them in. I was happy for them, but sad for myself. I would compare my lack of running to their ability to run well. I wanted to be out there with them!
I talked with my doctor at my last appointment about trying to get back into running. “Exercise is important.” he told me. I wear a necklace that is a glass sea turtle. He reached for my necklace, lifted the turtle up and said “Go slow. Be a turtle.” I had his permission to run. Run slow, but run. I need to be aware of certain things like inflammation from overdoing it (apparently inflammation can help drive those CLL cells).
On December 31st of last year, I decided 2023 was going to be the year I become a runner again. I signed up for my first race – a 5k. I would have a month to train for it.
I had to change the way I looked at running. I wasn’t the same runner that I was 2 years ago. A 5k back then would have been just a short, daily run. It wasn’t that now. It was 3 long miles that would leave me struggling to just get through the first mile. I joined an online running forum and downloaded their 5k podcast. I enlisted the company of a running buddy to run with me 2 days a week – my third day was on me. Over the course of January, I ran what I could of the 3 mile route, and walked when I couldn’t run. With each attempt, I ran a little more and walked a little less.
On Saturday, February 4th, I showed up at the start line for the RUN SLC 5k race – with my running buddy in tow. I had yet to run the full 3 mile training route without walking. I told her that she didn’t need to stay with me if she didn’t want to – she runs faster and further than I can. She said she was there to run WITH me, and she would run my pace. My goal was to complete this race without having to walk. I didn’t care how long it took me, or if I was the last person across the line, I just wanted to run the entire course. This was a mindset I had to get used to and tell myself it isn’t about being as fast or going as far as someone else. The only person I need to compare myself to, is myself. I ran at a comfortable pace. We carried a conversation the entire way. When we were about a quarter mile from the finish, I knew I was going to make it.
On that very cold morning, 38 minutes after I crossed the Start Line, I crossed back over the Finish Line. I had done what I set out to do – I ran my first 5k! I was officially 3.1 miles closer to my goal of becoming a runner again.
As the saying goes….
…and that is what matters to me.