Saturday, October 10, 2015

Adapting to My Limitations and Doing a Marathon Anyway

I walked a full marathon. I didn't think I'd ever be able to say that. Before I was diagnosed with MS, doing a marathon was something out there that I thought I would do someday.  After my MS diagnosis it seemed like a goal I would have to let go.

It’s all the more amazing and rewarding to me now since I wrote in my Life List post I had accepted that doing a marathon was something I wouldn’t do in this life.  I thought marathons required that people run them, and my MS symptoms cause too many injuries when I run long distances. Surely 26.2 miles was out of the question now that I had MS.

Drop foot caused me to run off kilter and consistently brought on hip pain and injuries that took months of physical therapy to heal. When I complained that jogging hurt me but I wanted to do running events, my physical therapist responded, “You need to decide if it’s worth it.”  She was wise to let me know that it was a choice I was making. It was then that I realized running long distances wasn’t wise for me anymore.

I decided to focus on other activities I enjoyed including walking and hiking.  It was after a ten mile walk that a friend suggested I do the Portland Marathon where they encourage walkers to participate.  I was immediately excited and signed up in January for the October marathon. Two friends also signed up, and we put together and followed a marathon training program that would allow us to not only do the marathon, but train in a way that would have us prepared and able to enjoy the entire adventure.

We usually upped our distance one mile per week.  With 36 weeks to train, we had plenty of time to prepare.  Internet sources educated us on how to train, and that was terrific given I’m sure we would have over trained if we’d come up with our own training schedule.  We walked one long walk per week and did two to three other workouts each week of yoga, walking or gym cardio and weights.  Sometimes we were ambitious and would increase our miles more than one mile per week.  But we checked in with ourselves and each other throughout the journey to make sure we weren’t pushing ourselves too hard.  The threat of getting sick or injured was enough to keep our drive in check.

We did have some physical challenges to address along the way.  New shoes & socks, icing our ankles and feet after walking, coating our feet with Vaseline before walking, and staying hydrated helped us perform beyond our hopes.  We started our training hoping to finish the marathon in less than the eight hours required.  By race day we felt optimistic that maybe we could finish in six and a half hours.  By the end of the marathon we were ecstatic to finish 20 minutes earlier than we ever could have hoped!

I chalk our success up to pacing ourselves, allowing enough time to train, making steady progress, paying attention to our bodies’ needs, and sharing the journey with good friends. We promised ourselves we would make sure we had fun every step of the way, and we did!

It’s empowering to accomplish goals even when I do them differently than I’d imagined.  MS is full of adjusting expectations for the future, and modifying how I do something hasn’t diminished the enjoyment and sense of accomplishment.  It’s made me appreciate the experience all the more.

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