Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Happy National Running Day!

Today I celebrate National Running Day! I woke up this morning to tweets and facebook posts feeling the joy and celebration that runs deep in the fiber of the running community.

Everyone runs for different reasons. Everyone has their own journey.

Mine began with the writing of a poem, "Running the Race." In December of 2006 I was diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. At that time, and in that poem, running became a metaphor for my life. Although I was in a leg brace and used a wheelchair at times for mobility facing a rather grim and uncertain future by all appearances, in my mind's eye I focused on winning a 10K race. I talked about being off of the sidelines and joining the human race having felt like an outcast because I was a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma. I imagined myself exceeding all expectations and that I now set the pace. Gratitude filled my heart even though I was told that I had to quit my job, adapt my home and prepare for a future in a wheelchair.

A shift happened within me from just thinking about and imagining myself running.

In February of 2008, my personal trainer asked me what my next goals were for my health and fitness journey. Oh I want to go outside and walk, I want to dance, I want to feel free in my body.

From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility" (now available on Amazon with 50% of royalty payment proceeds being donated to The One Fund)

“Wait. I have one more goal.”

Janine stopped and turned around.

“I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital. I know they have a Race for Rehab team and I want to do it next year.”

Janine was non-plussed. I don’t know what kept her from turning tail and getting as far away from me as she could. She came back into my house and put down her things. She said that the first thing I would need is a pair of running shoes. She told me that Marathon Sports on Beacon Street would be able to help me. She laid out a cursory training plan and said that we would begin indoors to build up my cardio endurance. As soon as the weather got a little warmer, we’d go outdoors and I would learn how to run.

While training for the 2009 Boston Marathon, I watched the 2008 Summer Olympics with a keen eye on the marathon event.

I wrote poetry to harness the power of visualization and to affirm my commitment to crossing the finish line.

I had one image that is still with me today from "Running with God" an article I wrote for Cape Healing Arts after running the 2008 Tufts 10K:

I had an image of my polio self and who I am today side by side in a huge bubble. As I ran, the distance lengthened between my polio self and who I am today until the bubble finally burst and I was free.

And speaking of God ....

When I run, I am grounded, strong and connected to the energy of the Earth. I also feel a connection to something far greater than me. I feel an expansiveness in my heart and in my soul. The Divine Energy of light, of love, of creation is palpable when I run. I feel a sense of joy even in the most challenging of runs. I find myself. Every time I go out on a run, I feel I find my way home to the essence of who I am. In "Running the Race" I wrote, "for the first time in life, I could truly be me."

Perhaps Dr. George Sheehan said it best when he wrote:

"The true runner is a very fortunate person. He has found something in him that is just perfect."

Happy National Running Day everyone!

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