April 17, 2013 will always remain one of the scariest days of my life. Waiting while my (then) 10-year-old daughter was wheeled back for a surgery that was going to remove most of her right knee tissue, move muscles around in her leg and then cover everything up with a graft of skin taken from her thigh… Not knowing for sure if this entire procedure was going to completely eradicate every last microscopic tumor cell… Wondering how difficult the recovery would be and how long it would be before we would see our active, athletic daughter up and running around again…
I am so glad to have those days of uncertainty and stress behind us! April 17th was the beginning of several months of recovery, rehab and therapy for Hannah, but she bounced back so much faster than we ever expected and now – one year later – you’d never even know what she went through without looking at the physical scars that are still visible but fading more every day. There is still worry – all of her follow-up scans have been clear so far, but there’s no 100% guarantee that the cancer will never come back. The scans will continue regularly for a while yet (every 4 months this year), but with every ‘all clear’ that we get, it’s just that much easier to breathe again.
As Hannah and I sat at her Girls on the Run Celebration 5K last May, watching her teammates and all of the other girls, coaches and running buddies out on the track – I knew how disappointed she was that she couldn’t be out there running too, and I made her a promise. I told her that if she worked hard at physical therapy and was able to run the next year’s 5K – her last year of Girls on the Run, that I would run it with her.
This promise had been at the back of my mind ever since – as Hannah completed physical therapy, had a successful soccer season in the fall, and then as the registration process for this spring’s Girls on the Run season began. I am helping to coach Hannah’s team – something I did when Abbi was also in 5th grade a couple of years ago. But back then, I did not run the 5K at the end of the season.
Why? Because honestly, I was NOT a runner. I’ve never been a runner, never aspired to be a runner and the thought (at the time) of running 3+ miles was exhausting just to even consider. I’ve been 40-50 pounds overweight ever since my kids were born and while my weight has stayed fairly stable since, losing weight has always been difficult for me. Probably because I’ve never been very active.
But something about the whole Girls on the Run program made me stop and think that well, maybe… I could just TRY running. After all if all these 3rd to 5th grade girls can do it – if Hannah can do it after major surgery on her leg that left her with one fewer muscle in her calf than the rest of us have – who am I to say what’s possible or not possible? And so a promise was made and I was determined to find a way to keep it.
I began a ‘Couch to 5K’ running program in March, using a free iPhone app called 5K Runner. I chose this app because had the best reviews and is an 8-week program that takes you through a process of alternating walks and runs during each workout, each building a little bit more running and less walking until you’re (in theory at least) able to run a 5K by the end. With no budget for running gear, I picked up the cheapest running shoes I could find ($25 at Target) and hoped for the best.
For the first time in my life, I was working out regularly – 3 times a week. And after completing the third week of training – I felt pretty good. Really good, in fact. I’d discovered that running wasn’t as horrible as I’d thought it would be – in fact, I kind of really enjoyed it. Or at least the way it made me feel when I was done each time. I have more energy, more motivation to get up and moving every day, and am noticing a difference in how my clothes fit – although I have a huge way left to go. One of my closest friends began running last summer and has also been an inspiration – seeing her complete several 5K’s has made me think that just maybe, I could do this too.
So last weekend, I did. I completed my first 5K. I didn’t run the whole thing – not even much of it, since a calf muscle strain the Monday before, just as I began the fourth week of training, took its toll. I ran (very slowly) for a few short stretches and walked the rest. But – I completed it. I finished (in 51 minutes), I wasn’t the last one across the finish line (by any means) and I didn’t keel over afterward. I actually felt pretty good even. And ready to keep my promise and cross the next finish line this May at our Girls on the Run Celebration 5K with Hannah and the rest of our team.
Because yes, I AM a runner. A slow, still very overweight, usually out-of-breath, worried-about-more-injuries one, in cheap running shoes – but a runner nonetheless.
What a difference a year makes.