The Running Disease.

“Let’s get the white elephant out of the room first. So you’re running now.”

I had lunch yesterday with my friend Jamie, the occasion upon which that accusation was made.

I leaned in and lowered my voice.

“Do you want to know how bad it’s gotten? It’s like really, really bad. Chris arranged for the kids to spend the night at my parent’s Sunday night to give me a break. When he told me, my first thought was ‘We could get up early and run together on Monday morning!’ Not ‘I can sleep as late as I want!’, but ‘I’ll get up before daybreak!’ – and I did. At 5:30 in the morning. And we ran west. And I DIDN’T EVEN TURN AROUND TO WATCH THE SUNRISE.”

It’s time to get the white elephant out of the room here, too.

I don’t know how this happened to me. I’m shocked, confused, perplexed, and worried that I may have been abducted by aliens and returned with the brain of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

I ran for 27 days straight.

In those 27 days, I ran 118 miles.

Before those 27 days, I had run all of six miles this entire year. And close to zero miles last year.

I became obsessed with making sure I got to run…finding the opportunity to run…sometimes running twice a day…and making compromises to find the time for my new problem.

(This could explain the recent lack of quality and quantity of blog posts.)

I was well aware that running several miles every day wasn’t exactly recommended by health professionals, but what it was doing for my Dysautonomia drove me to it anyway.

Although seeing all of my steps on my FitBit was the first driving force, most of my obsession with running in the past month has definitely been its impact on how it has made me feel. Despite my creaky legs and blistered toes and swollen foot (the one that had two surgeries and a bone removed and I swore would keep me from running ever again), my health has greatly improved. And on the days when I have struggled with Dysautonomia symptoms, the only thing that has helped was going out and running.

In the August Alabama heat.

It makes no sense. But it has worked.

…until I inevitably hurt my knee and had to take a couple of days off. Then got The Illness of The Century and had to take a couple more days off. But I’ve ramped back up, taking it a bit more in moderation now, despite the fact that I still desperately want to run every day.

Insane, I tell you.

I’ve known for a year now that exercise was on the list of things that makes Dysautonomia better. But if I had ordered that list in the sequence that I was willing to partake, it would have looked like this:

1. Eat more salt.
2. Eat more often.
3. Take medication.
4. Cut out soft drinks.
5. Reduce caffeine.
6. Drink more water.
7. Exercise.

However, in order of how much they’ve actually helped, they have proven to be:

1. Exercise.
2. Drink more water.
3. Take medication.
4. Cut out soft drinks.
5. Reduce caffeine.
6. Eat more often.
7. Eat more salt.

So it only took a year for some synapse in my brain to snap and make me actually want to attempt the thing that works the best.

And in so doing, I have gotten to see many things I wouldn’t have ever seen otherwise, like this bridge a little past the end of the Lakeshore Running Trail.

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And this grisly murder scene in a parking lot.

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Or this….Nazi Symbol? on the Jefferson County Courthouse???

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And this amazing downtown loft and courtyard, of which I am now endlessly jealous.

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It’s helped me in my Studies of Birmingham Graffiti, finding an elusive Naro tag (who is no longer with us, based on the giant “RIP Naro” tag that Daze put on the Red Mountain Expressway).

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It’s also provided more quality time with my husband, on those rare opportunities we’ve been able to run together.

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(One weekend we sent the kids to my parents and had a Friday night 5 mile run and Saturday morning 8 mile run, with a couple of date meals on either side.)

(That’s right. Even my dates are now scheduled around running.)

Chris was able to take me on some of his favorite routes and stretch my endurance tremendously, and now I’m interviewing live-in nannies so that we can run together every day.

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(Okay not really. But a girl can fantasize.)

I’ve been bitten by the bug so hard that I used my only free time in Nashville to…run. In the afternoon Nashville no-shade heat.

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THEN I went to bed early so I could get up early and do it all over again. In the delightful morning breeze.

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But now I fully understand why Chris likes running other cities – you see things, angles, and details that you’d never see any other way. I’ve already shown you what I saw in Guntersville, but in Nashville, I saw the sun rising over the Ryman Auditorium,

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The city waking up through the rails of the walking bridge,

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The sun and clouds reflecting off of downtown Nashville and looking rather like a fried egg (over easy),

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And the fact that Nashville shares a similar feature with Birmingham – a river of rails running through the middle,

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Except that, instead of tearing down their grand central station like we did, they turned it into a breathtaking hotel.

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Although the impact to my quality of life has become far more important than the impact to my weight, I’m happy with the results from seven weeks of FitBit and 158 miles in my running shoes.

Before and After Weight Loss July to August

(And yes. I’m totally wearing Toms. Because I’m a hypocrite like that.)

But running. I’ve fallen in love. And I’ve fallen hard. And you’re likely to hear more about it. So I apologize in advance.

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. I got up late yesterday and baked bread instead of getting on the treadmill if you were wondering what side of the fence I fell on.

    Sidenote: The swastika was explained to me by my grandmother who was born in Calcutta basically as a Hindu peace symbol..

  2. Mary Elizabeth says:

    You’re so inspiring! I have never been a “runner,” but I was recently motivated (by peer pressure) to start training for a 5k. It has been an uphill battle, and my tendency to over achieve compounded that. I have thus far refused to run in the Kentucky humidity, so I have been hitting the treadmill at the gym every other day. I thought when I forced myself to run on a high incline I was “pushing” myself and “making myself stronger,” but what I was really doing was brewing an A+ case of Achilles’ tendinitis. I’m currently out for at least 10 days, and have been feeling a little discouraged, but this post renewed my interest.

    You rock and you look great! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Way to go Rachel! I love running but I have to say that I am a total chicken and I have avoided the summer heat like the plague. But you have really inspired me to get back to it. And you look great (not that you didn’t look great before). I have found that no matter how healthy I eat, exercise (and running in particular) is really the key to my happiness and weight loss. Keep up the awesome work!!

  4. Emily in Florida you know Trav's wife? says:

    SO MANY QUESTIONSSSS. Travis bought some running shoes and he actually WENT.

    TWICE.

    So now I bought some, because. Dang.

    So what apps do we need? How, exactly, does one run? Heel-toe? Mid strike? What is a mid strike? Hello, I am new here, someone help me. Before I (incorrectly) run away.

    • I use two apps: FitBit (to track my every single step and calories and such), and Map My Run – to only track my exercise, and to see pretty little maps of all of my runs.

      As far as gait, I’m no expert. I change my stride up a lot – when one way gets sore, I go to another.

  5. I am totally impressed that you went from no running to running 10 minute miles so quickly. Even when I tried running that one time way back when, I was always slow and definitely never liked it. Way to go!! So glad you are feeling better!

  6. Great job, Rachel!! Keep it up!

  7. You looked great before and you look great now. :-) Also, I’m sure Chris has told you, but keep track of the miles you’re putting on your running shoes. When you run that many miles, it’s easy to lose track of when you need to replace them. They’re only good for a certain number of miles, and it can be REALLY hard on your feet and shins when they wear out.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Good for you, and I am very jealous. Believe it or not, I actually WANT to try running (even though the last time I ran was in sixth grade and I hated it with the passion of a thousand burning suns), but my knees won’t let me. I so wish I had learned to love exercise in my 20s or 30s, before I started to develop totally unsexy old-lady problems like arthritis.

  9. Dang, woman, lookin’ good!

    I start back working out with my personal trainer this morning. Pray for me.

  10. Never ran in my life. Started Couch to 5k app in early May. Ran my first 5k in June and signed up for a 14K and 10K next month. I have the bug too. I even suck it up and run on the treadmill when my husband is traveling for work (thank you Netflix).

    We are taking Friday off work to spend time together and his first thought was could we get someone to load our kids on the bus so we can go for a morning run together (a rare treat).

    • That’s so awesome! I was running on the treadmill but I suspect it was rougher on my knees. However, this unbelievable August weather may drive me back to it for another try.

  11. Wow, good for you! I’m glad to hear it’s helping you feel better. I wish I got bit by the running bug ‘cos it just has a magical tendendency to help people drop weight. As it is, I tried the first day of Couch fo 5K – my muscles hurt like crazy for 3 days afterwards then my knee joints started hurting so I gave that up as a bad job. I guess I’ll stick to yoga, pilates and using the machines at the gym (when I can get there…).

  12. If it makes you feel better then run! That is awesome. Your confession at the beginning did make me think of this YouTube video http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-NwHNHNXsg0

    I have to know though what brand the beautiful blue and gray striped dress you’re wearing is. It is so pretty on you!

  13. Good for you! I’m so happy for you that this is helping you feel better! And you look great! Now I just need you to bottle some of that running fervor and send it to me!!!

  14. That is great! I racewalk and I am really good, was nationally ranked at one point. No, I am not usually one to come out and just say I am good at something. I am mad that this is the sport I happen to excel at. I have always done sports, was a competitive swimmer from preschool to my senior year but I was never spectacular, just average. I ran cross country and was not awesome. I broke my hip running at age 21, joined team in training to walk a marathon and discovered I walk fast. A racewalking coach saw me and recruited me and trained me. I did a 10 miler a month later at a 10 min walking pace and I looked like a freak. I coached for many years for team in training and was part of a racewalking team. I always wanted to run. Last year I started running more and I was so happy. Then I stood up one day and my knee came out of it’s socket, Yup. MRI and 2 drs later and PT to discover that I should not run. I have 3 different conditions with that knee. A 5k maybe they said, embrace the racewalking. Sigh. The good news is that racewalking will get you in amazing shape, even more then running, but it looks odd.

  15. That’s awesome! A few summers ago Runner’s World magazine challenged people to run at least a mile a day for 35 days (I think) straight. It was their summer running challenge or something like that.. They probably still do it. I focused and completed the challenge. That really tipped me over the edge, as far as getting me into better shape. I haven’t run that many days consecutively since then, but you are doing really great! I never understood the running bug until I learned to lace up nearly every day. And running in new cities makes it all the more fun!

  16. Alright I’m in. I’ll start running again.

    ps RE: Last photo–You’re just your daughter in heels aren’t you? twins!

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