There is a quote: “it doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”…sage words from my daddy on the day I ran my first 5K. Not just any 5K, but a 5K with a 14 obstacle course and a mud pit to run through. Yes, a grueling sequence of obstacles set along a 5K path that I decided to challenge myself to do, while I was in recovery from my ostomy surgery back in September.
When I had surgery back in September, I decided at that time, that I needed to set goals to try to get my life back on track. I was a wreck. Emotional and physical mess. I had to try to find ways to restore myself back to “me,” so to speak. The old “me” never really ran a 5K, but whatever…ha! I wanted to try, and I think it helps too, toward building my self-esteem which was damaged quite a bit. My confidence needed some repair as well. Setting goals and achieving them seemed like the best plan to accomplish this.
The best laid plans
It starts out small, setting goals to walk 10 steps from the hospital bed to the door. Then down the hospital corridor or around the nurses’ station until I was finally able to walk out the door of the hospital to the car to go home. Small victories. When I felt that my recovery was on par, I decided that I would start setting goals further out, ones to work toward. The idea of a 5K run came to mind. Upon researching, I found the Survival Race in Texas being held in December – exactly 3 months post-surgery. My first thought, “where do I sign up?” I figured 3 months would be an acceptable amount of time for recovery.
I bought a pedometer shortly after and started tracking how much walking distance I could put on in a day. Later on, I started shopping for an elliptical machine. Then, I began stretching and trying to condition myself to some level of fitness in order to get through this. I had a few setbacks along the way that started to concern me. I kept getting ill with so many infections, flu, colds, I had an abdominal abscess, and I kept having setbacks. I was worried that I would not be well enough to achieve this goal. But harder yet, only a few short weeks before the challenge, I was injured in a car accident. I was about to give up on the idea of doing this 5K. My body hurt so much, and I couldn’t imagine trying to go through this and make it to the finish line. I began to think that this was too soon after surgery, then having so many setbacks; I should probably bail out and quit.
But slowly, I began to improve. I started walking a course outside my house and kept going until I reached the 5K mark. I would jam to my tunes, and the time flew by. Then, I started to jog and my endurance built up and I felt confident that I could do this. I was just going into it thinking all I have to do is make it to the finish line. Don’t worry about the time, just finish. JUST CROSS THAT FINISH LINE!!
The night before the race I was so nervous; I didn’t sleep well. I kept thinking about the day ahead and worrying about the obstacles; I researched all 14 and pinpointed the ones that I knew I could easily do and the ones that would be a bigger challenge for me. I kept thinking all along the way how this race is a metaphor for my life. There are all these obstacles, all these challenges, and I have to figure out how to navigate through them. I am not fortunate enough in life however, to know in advance what obstacles are ahead, but I think you get what I mean.
In this particular event there were tires to run through, a mucky river knee deep, muddy hills to climb, walls to leap, crawling under barbed wire through a pond, crawling through wet and muddy tunnels, climbing over wooden and metal structures, a rope wall I had to get over, a pit of paint balls I had to go through on my tummy, barrels to jump over, and a fire pit to jump across. Many times along the way I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I hurt myself, got afraid that I couldn’t do something, or that I would fall from the top of the rope wall—I sat at the top of the wall contemplating my descent. I got tired, cold, my asthma was making it a challenge to breathe, but at each challenge, I faced it, did it, and overcame it until finally, I came to the mud pit–the most difficult challenge of the entire course. It was a lake bed of pure mud that was waist deep. It felt and smelled like poo-(haha one must admit this really was the perfect metaphor for IBD!)
The mud pit was the hardest to overcome. Here, I struggled the most, I didn’t think I could get through, I lost my shoes and went through it with nothing to protect me, I got stuck and could not move, it was the part that slowed me down the most, and for a split second I stopped, looked up, and thought to myself, “I’m done-I can’t do this anymore.” This was the perfect analogy for fighting IBD. Still, I kept on going, and once I was able to make it out, I was still carrying the weight of 20lbs of mud on me through the rest of the course. Kind of like, how making it past the biggest hurdles, one still carries along residual weight of this illness. It doesn’t completely go away–sad but true. I have an ostomy appliance attached to my abdomen as proof and scars that will never heal.
Champion for a day
Finally after a little over an hour, covered in mud, blood running down my hand, and bruises on my body, I crossed the Finish line. I was never as physically thrilled to finish something in my life as I was to finish this. I.DID.IT…ME! It was my glorious, feel good, moment. I sank to my knees to thank God for carrying me to the finish line.
This race was tough, but then again, life is tough. Some of us learn this the hard way, but this challenge taught me something about life and about myself. I believe that no matter how hard something is, you eventually get through it. Unlike this race that ended in an hour, so many challenges in the path we walk through IBD take years to overcome if at all, but we celebrate small victories, good days, and overcoming the challenges. Sometimes we get to the end of a struggle and feel victorious. I also learned that even if I am afraid of the unknown or afraid of the challenge of what I am facing, if I have enough faith in myself to believe I can make it, I can, and most of all, I learned to not give up. I never gave up-I never quit. Even if it was only for a moment or a day that I could feel high on life for crossing that finish-line, to me, that moment was priceless. It took a long time to capture that feeling-I got to have it, and I earned it.
“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” ~Mahatma Gandhi