This is the story of how running again brought adventure back into my life. At the age of 44, I was doughy and weak. Not obese, but overweight and undernourished. I’d gone through several, unproductive months of testing with my doctor. Thyroid. Arthritis markers. The word autoimmune was mentioned more than once. I was developing allergies to everything from perfume to medication. I ached everywhere.
And my hair was falling out.
One night in the bathtub, I reached down and poked my thigh. There was hardly any resistance, my finger went right down to the bone. I panicked. I thought my muscles must be dying. Deteriorating. For the first time I considered that I really might have a serious disease. I also realized that I moved so little, observed the world from such a passive stance, that were I to wind up in a wheel chair, how much quality of life would I really be losing? That question was nearly as frightening as the idea of having a degenerative condition.
And, when that idea struck me as ignorant and insensitive, I started googling. There were – there are – people with all kinds of physical disabilities doing amazing things in the world. I remembered that a colleague who runs marathons has MS. She’d mentioned it in passing once. Me, an able-bodied woman, not doing everything under my power to stay healthy and take advantage of that privilege, seemed like a sin.
I’d given up running in my late twenties. My knees had become weak from years of running on asphalt in stiffly constructed shoes, designed to fix my over-pronation. I’m not sure where I found the book, but then I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. And I began running again. Slowly. 10 minutes out, 10 minutes in, often walking. I began reading about anti-inflammatory foods, and started following paleo/primal food guidelines as a rule of thumb.
There were nights I lay in bed and thought I might be killing myself. I thought I could have a heart attack from eating high fat foods. That I was overdoing it by running my 6K each morning before work. At my age.
I ran my first marathon 11 months later. And I realized that slowly, over the course of that year, the aches had subsided. My hair was growing back in. I was fit. Excited about life.
I made a pact with myself at the age of 46: keep exploring; do one big thing a year that frightens you. Sometimes I do more than one. In 2016 I turned 50. I also went slalom skiing for the first time, tried surfing, and carried a 40-pound backpack over a mountain plateau for 5 days.
I’ve learned not to skimp on adventure. Not that every new thing is expensive: the ocean kayak course was local, so was the landscape drawing course. Admittedly, the week in Italy learning theatrical biomechanics was a bit pricey. This winter, I will be heading to Northumberland for my first trail marathon. The plane tickets, the new gear, the hotel will add up. Some expenses, over the course of a healthy, active and adventurous lifetime, is money well spent.
To be honest, I felt much guiltier when I was spending money on Häagen-Dazs.