Tomorrow is the marathon. This is what I registered for seven months ago. At that time I had only run one half-marathon. I was sure I was ready to register for a full marathon, knowing that it would be seven months away, despite having never run more than 21.1k.
Yesterday I ran a 5k on the Galloping Goose trail. The humidity felt like it was choking me but that could have been my nerves. I was thinking back on my first half.
The first half-marathon I did, I got a stress fracture in my right foot around the 10k mark. I cried during that race. Not just a few tears, but bawled. By the 18k mark I was limping. Strangers walking on the path were asking if I needed help. It was not the dramatic, beautiful experience I had anticipated. I was in pain, I stayed in pain, and I wasn’t even thrilled with my time at the end of it (2:13:something). Then during recovery I stressed my left knee from putting all my weight on that side while trying to get back to running.
I wasn’t as emotionally stressed about the race in the time leading up to the run. Maybe my stress was all devoured by my wedding the month prior. Maybe I just didn’t know any better. At that time though, I just ran. I hadn’t tried compression socks, ice baths, carb loading or any of that. I hadn’t engaged a running coach or joined a running group or online forum.
I worried about my epilepsy, but really not more than I do in any given day. It was a local race. It cost $20 and wasn’t far from my house. I didn’t have a blog, I didn’t talk about running, I certainly didn’t talk about my medical condition the way that I do now. At the same time, that first half-marathon was a big step for me. I didn’t know what I was doing and I knew that I didn’t know. At that time, while I was less stressed, I was just as terrified.
I needed to do it though.
This comes from being epileptic, for me. I have a need to have control over myself, particularly over my body. There are times where it would be so easy to let my epilepsy take over and dictate how I will live my life. My epilepsy could direct where I go and what I do. I could let it control me, own me. I could be a slave to epilepsy. Me, being the person I am, being the person I was before my diagnosis and being the person I have become since that time, I have developed a need for control. Not control over everything. Just control for myself. I have a need to be able to do things. I have a need to be able to prove to myself that I can do anything and everything.
Although that’s not where running started, that need for control definitely furthered it. I can run 5k? Let’s do 10. Conquered 10k? Next goal is a half. Now the goal is the marathon.
Whether after tomorrow I choose new distances, faster times or entirely different sports, I will know that I did it. Honestly, even if I don’t finish, I will know that I trained. I will know that I started. That I registered and got ready to be there. I can’t say that I won’t have a seizure the moment I wake up tomorrow morning and hit my head, hurt a limb or just be incapable of running. In all honesty, I will never have a morning where I can guarantee that my day will go the way I would like it to (normally and seizure-free). But I can do everything in my power to be ready to try and to do it to the best of my ability. If I don’t make it to the race, I will definitely register for another.
2% of the population is diagnosed with epilepsy or a seizure conditions. 0.5% of the population completes a marathon. I don’t know what the combination of those statistics is. I don’t care though how many people (epileptic or otherwise) complete a marathon. That does not stop me from putting on my shoes. When I push off the ground with my long stride, when my foot hits the pavement, trail or treadmill, I am not thinking about joining that 0.5%. I am impressed with all of them, but it is not in my mind when I am running.
At some point however, I am thinking about the 2%. I am thinking about all the people out there who are affected by seizures, whether they experience it themselves or if it’s a loved one. I am thinking about the people who know what I’m talking about when I say that I don’t know whether my mornings will even start. Who know what it’s like not to have control over your body and who have to fight to succeed whatever that success means.
I am not stopped by my condition. We are not stopped by our conditions. We can choose to challenge ourselves. We can choose to work to control the things that we can control and to be at peace with the things that we cannot control.
Whatever happens tomorrow, however my morning starts, whether I start or finish, whatever my time may be, I will be proud of my accomplishments. I have put on sneakers so many times and have pushed when my legs ached. Sometimes I have listened to my body and sometimes I haven’t. I have done everything I could have to grow as a runner, and I have done everything I could to grow as a runner with epilepsy. Tomorrow will come. If tomorrow doesn’t work, there will be more tomorrows. I did what I could to get here.
I shook the ground with every step.