On the Run

On the Run: Running into 2020

I write to you from the hazy fog brought on by a string of heavy symptom days with occipital neuralgia. For the last few months of 2019, I enjoyed blissfully low to no symptoms and, in truth, felt very much like I was “better.”

And then… the tense headache warning of what’s to come. So, as much as I love a crisp new planner and the start of a new year, I’m struggling to find optimism. It’s hard to feel like it’s a fresh new year when I’m carrying over the same old chronic pain that met me in August of last year.

In spite of this, I carry the lessons with me that going for a run will actually improve symptoms, not make them worse. And so, as the year of my half marathon (fingers crossed) begins, I’m continuing my training plan.

Yesterday, I met a challenge that feels both distant and familiar. My symptoms were heavy, shocking pains coming frequently and a tell-tale tightness in my right neck muscles. I debated skipping the day’s 45 minute run, or cutting it short.

But I’ve talked to my primary care physician and neurologist about this (not to mention my therapist). I know that the pain will do what the pain does, that it has no basis in tissue damage–just my nerves and pain receptors on overdrive. I know that being more active, doing the things I love, helps the pain recede.

It’s just that “Ouch, this hurts, let’s go for a run anyway” still feels bizarre. Still, I laced up my shoes and took those first steps out the door.

It was a good run. I explored a new area of my neighborhood, finding joy in new sights and mapping out the distance under my feet–I’ve always been able to learn space better on foot than in the car. The shocking pains usually recede around 10 minutes in to yoga or running, but it did take longer than that. Still, I pressed on. “Listen to your body” is hard when you have chronic pain, because your brain and your body embrace phantoms. But I know the signals for needing to stop a run, and those were absent.

After, I felt so much better. Like taking back control, like a promise I won’t let this pain take running away from me. Take my half marathon away from me.

I am strangely anxious to admit it, but I’ve actually been training for this half marathon for weeks. Because 2019’s plans went so poorly, speaking round two into existence is more than a little scary. And yet, here I am, following my training plan and daydreaming about crossing the finish line in May.

In these past few weeks, I’ve been working with a plan from Kelly Roberts of Run, Selfie, Repeat, the Badass Lady Gang, etc. This plan has told me to do things I never imagined would be part of my running life, such as sprints, speedwork, and hill repeats. As a result of daring to fail with the encouragement of my coaching plan, I am a stronger runner than I’ve ever been before. I’m hitting paces I didn’t think I was capable of and feeling really powerful. That said, I’ve still not run a distance higher than 10K in one session.

So, yeah, you could say I’m a little nervous for what the new year will bring for me on my running journey, let alone in life. I started 2020 running along the river with Andy in gorgeous sunshine, trying to achieve my impossible of maintaining an 8:55 pace for 800 meters (half a mile) at a time.

On top of my running goals, I’m ringing in 2020 the way I’ve been starting new years since 2015–with a 30 day yoga journey with Adriene. This year’s theme is HOME, and these first four days have been blissful and sweet, as always. It’s truly a magical experience, and one I look forward to as much as (if not more than) the holidays themselves.

I hope the new year finds you well, and that you are moving into whatever goals or intentions or intentional lack of intentions you’ve chosen to carry with you into 2020. Thank you for bearing
witness to my journey. I hope to continue sharing it with you this year.

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