Today, I participated in the 8K Run for Their Lives to Benefit PAWS Chicago. This run means a lot to me for a couple of reasons. First, for a very long time, running is something I never thought I would do. Although I liked the idea of running, I was never able to do it for anything more than short spurts. I experienced awful side cramps that would make me double over in pain. Long-time runners would tell me, “Oh, you just have to run through those.” Um, no. I’m pretty sure anyone who tells me to run through them hasn’t experience a side stitch anywhere near as painful to the ones I got.
Other people told me that I got the side cramps because I didn’t run regularly enough. I have been exercising regularly for many years (walking, biking, aerobics, elliptical and stair machines, etc), but nothing gave me side stitches like running. The problem was that if I did try to run more regularly in an effort to leave the side stitches behind, my joints hurt. My knees, my ankles, my hips throbbed and creaked, and I ended up walking like an arthritic octogenarian the next day.
“You need better shoes,” people then told me. I was skeptical that better shoes could make that much of a difference, so for a long time, I said I’d only run if someone or something were chasing me.
Then, in the spring of 2009, I was on one of my try-new-things-and-improve-my-life jags, and I decided to give this running thing a real, honest try. I got professionally fitted for running shoes and embarked on the couch to 5K program, which I cannot recommend enough to anyone who wants to start running. The program begins with mostly walking and runs of very short intervals. The running intervals gradually increase over the course of 9 weeks, so that by the end of that time, you’re running roughly 5K (3.1 miles). To my amazement, it worked. The good, professionally fit shoes made a world of difference as far as joint pain, and the gradual increase in running intervals all but eliminated my side cramp problems (I still get them on occasion, but they are few and far between).
In September of 2009, I ran my first 5K race, and since then, I’ve been running a couple races per year and running regularly throughout the year. Whether it’s a race or just a regular morning run, running has come to mean a lot to me because it represents an obstacle overcome. The thought of running even a mile without stopping used to make me cringe and groan. Now, I run 5 at a time on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never come even remotely close to winning a race (and probably won’t). I’m doing it. That’s what’s important to me.
People sometimes ask if there’s a marathon in my future. Probably not. I get bored driving for 26.2 miles, so I can scarcely imagine running it. I’ve kicked around the idea of running a half marathon some day, though. We’ll see.
So, on to the second reason this race means a lot to me. Animals have enriched my life more than I can ever say. I am immensely proud to be supporting pet adoptions and am incredibly grateful to all those who sponsored me in this run. Because of your generosity, more animals will have homes, and more people will experience the joy of a pet. Even if you didn’t and can’t afford to donate to an animal shelter, I sincerely hope that you’ll consider adoption if you should ever want to bring an (or another) animal into your life.
At the time I ran this race last year, my cat Gordon was very sick. He had undergone numerous tests, and we were still waiting for a diagnosis, hoping that whatever it was could be treated and cured. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with FIP, which is fatal and currently incurable. He passed away on October 4 last year at only 18 months of age. He was in my thoughts as I ran today.
I finished the race in 47:08, which is a personal best for me and more than a minute faster than my time last year. More importantly, in all, almost $200,000 was raised for PAWS!