I think this one is a 10k, but I am not sure. I am positive I can do it! I ran maybe 11k today. I need to check on the map because I think my pedometer is reading high. It said 7.8 miles when I checked it after my run. 10k is more like 6.2 or 6.3 miles. I never calibrated my stride, running or walking, just put in my height. I’ve been running every other day, about 10k.
I feel wicked good about everything. Running for my life away from shrinkage was the best thing I ever did! My dad would be so, so proud of me! He was once president of Massachusetts NAMI but I’m sure he would be rolling over in his grave if he knew NAMI took bribes from the pharmaceutical companies.
I need to find the exact date, and how to sign up. This may be a full marathon (which I don’t want to even think about doing) however I am fairly certain there’s a 10k option and maybe 5k too. Some races do it like that.
I have enjoyed running so much lately that I was thinking of running a 10k. I have been checking out where there are some in my area. I believe there will be a few next year in Montevideo, mostly after the weather cools. We are headed into summer now.
I was planning all this out during my run yesterday morning. I ran about 5-1/2 miles. This was one of the many variations on the circle I often do. A 10k isn’t much over 6 miles. I don’t run on consecutive days, that is, if I run Monday, I wait till Wednesday or Thursday to run again. I think I could run daily if I were to shorten my distances. However, I kinda like the long runs, so I am fine with going every two or three days.
I feel happier than I have felt in a long time. I am finally able to have fun again. After the abuse at MGH I never had fun at all. I’d try, but it always fell flat. Even walking Puzzle didn’t do it for me, though I took her out rain or shine anyway. As far as I can tell, Puzzle is thrilled with our new life here. I don’t plan to run with her, though. I take her to the beach sometimes for kicks.
So this is my plan: Run for charity. I don’t think the run I have my eye on is a charity run but one set up by a local athletic club. So I can run and have a fundraiser of my own. I’m sure there are entry fees but usually these are to pay the personnel involved. I know organizing races can be complicated. From publicity to making sure the road is safe there are many employees. I suppose among paid and volunteer employees would be the athletic folks themselves such as judges and those doing the timing and setting up audio systems, serving food afterward, passing out kits (bibs, timing sensor devices we tie on our shoe, etc) or cleaning up trash. I’m sure there are “sponsors” such as shoe companies and those companies that make sports drinks. Many races supply beer afterward too. The police (or whoever does traffic) have to see to it that cars are diverted. I’m sure just about every race has first aid people standing by. That’s all paid for by entry fees and other funding. I’ve noticed some races are done by charities and they are not only asking an entry fee but to gather pledges for the charity. So it works much like a benefit walk.
So how about I do my own campaign? I thought of a few ideas:
1) Run to benefit an established organization I believe in, such as MindFreedom International.
2) Run to benefit an up and coming institution that has truly helped me directly. I’m thinking of Lauren Tenney’s “Talk with Tenney” radio show because the show serves the purpose of giving those affected by MH care a voice. It has been so beneficial for me to have my voice heard. It’s been an incredibly positive step for me.
3) Invent my own charity.
Do you want to know what this charity will be? It would be a fund set up that people could apply to in various categories, all based on rebuilding lives for victims/survivors of MH care. I thought of the following:
1) A specific amount of money designated for education or vocational training. This means GED, college, and the like. This would contribute to tuition or books.
2) Necessary assistive technology to help people rebuild their lives. For instance, if a person is suffering trauma from psych abuse and believes he/she is a good candidate for a service animal to enable him/her to work, the fund would provide an amount to go toward the care of the animal or travel expenses involved in obtaining the animal, or something related. Or if the person has severe vision problems that resulted from psych meds, the fund would help pay for Dragon Naturally Speaking or whatever the person needs. Dragon is one of the best software packages that enables a person to hear text on a page.
3) Relocating. Funding that would contribute to moving expenses or settling the new home.
4) Legal. Help to pay for a lawyer if you need one to get your kids back or if you are unjustly accused of a crime because of your psych background and are seeking defense, and other reasons.
The fund wouldn’t pay for medical expenses. The fund would absolutely not pay for further shrinkage, addiction treatment, or a support group. This is for advancing our lives past MH care, not for returning to it, which is a step backwards.
The focus would be rebuilding lives shattered by MH care. Rebuilding. That is, ourselves.
I see so many people in devastation and ruin. They feel they cannot and will never rebuild. It’s so sad to see. I want to give a hand to those folks so they can have a second chance just like I have had.
I will be 57 in less than a month. I’m kinda surprised to be alive, but truly delighted. I ask myself sometimes why I never gave up. Here’s one reason why:
What’s with this gluten free thing, anyway? I feel like a million bucks! Well, in fact, I wish I HAD a million bucks, too, but having all that money would turn me into a lazy and very greedy person, as I figure it.
So today, as I calculated, I ran for over an hour, just about precisely 8 km, according to Google maps. This is only my second time out. What the f? How can I do this? Eight km comes to roughly five miles.
Well? I walk every day, don’t I? Been walking all along, several miles each day, as I figure it, sometimes more like six. I don’t smoke. Should I really be that surprised?
I went out, turned este (east) at La Rambla, past the yacht club (I doubt people have yachts here), past the pescado market a little fish place) and Indigo Atlantida (ristorante), till I got to Piedro Lisa, where I turned back on Sunday. I took a good look at Piedro Lisa, which I think is a cafe or nightclub or bar, and decided I wouldn’t turn back. Naw, I wasn’t ready to.
I kept going. Kept running. I ran toward the sun, only it kept getting farther away from me. I couldn’t catch that darned thing. Geez. I asked myself why the sun was both este and slightly sud from here. However, I realize that it’s coming upon summer here below the equator. So you’d expect it to be down our way, eh? I kept running.
I knew Piedro Lisa is fairly far down La Rambla, nearly into Los Toscas. That’s sorta the next town over. I figured maybe it would be too much should I attempt to go all that way.
You know that expression that says a certain town is so small that you shouldn’t blink while driving by, or you’ll miss the entire town. I can say that about Las Toscas for sure. I ran right by it! Finally I started to wonder, cuz I knew it sorta looked like I had gone into a more developed area then it kinda thinned out. I decided I’d better turn up toward the IB. I turned left. I had no clue how far I had gone, but checking Google maps later on, I noticed that the place I turned was at the border between Las Toscas and Parque del Plata. Honestly, I had no clue. I ran away from the ocean and found a street that looked wide enough so I wouldn’t be in the way of passing cars. Turned out the street was under construction, so I had the opportunity to run on soft ground. The towns were beginning to wake up, folks headed for work.
I went past that Esso station. Estacion Las Toscas, it says. Then only a few stores, pizza places mostly, and I was outa the Centro of the town.
Road construction ended. I counted down the streets, realizing I was headed into Atlantida. Calle 4B, Calle 3B, Calle 2B…Oh, whatever. We don’t have many street signs here. You gotta just know. Kinda like Boston, where you can read what the side streets are if you are lucky, but heck if I ever know what street I am on! I kept running.
When I arrived at the circle where I always get lost, I promised myself I wouldn’t this time. I managed to find Artigas, which is the main drag in Atlantida. I ran past Supermercado de la Pedro, where I show up sometimes, past the Policio, past the Correo Uruguayo, and then onto my street. I didn’t bother with a cool down. Puzzle’s walk served that purpose.
Know where I keep my key? In my shoe. Tied in and tucked under the laces. Now and then, sunlight reflected off that key and flashed into my face. The key to mi casa.
As I figured it, things were not going to be the same for runners for a while. Not for any runner anywhere. Not even on a treadmill. As I saw it, a shadow had been cast on the sport.
For me, I thought of the Marathon runners, how each had trained for a year to run in this event. Yes, a year. I had heard that it takes a year of solid work, specifically training to run this very long distance that our bodies are not really designed to do. I have heard that the half marathon, that is, approximately thirteen miles, is far easier on the body, whereas the full marathon is well beyond the scope of most people’s natural abilities.
Running is a solitary activity. I say this because you do it in your head. Or at least I do. I have never done it with another person, and don’t intend to. I cannot fathom it as a team thing. I see it as something one person’s body does by itself. It is not multiple bodies doing something in cooperation, as is synchronized swimming, a ballet troupe, or, say, a jazz quartet.
And so, when I run, I daydream. I go off places. Many places. Even when I ran at our track, called Victory Field, I loved to imagine I was ending my run at Copley Square, where the Boston Marathon ended each year. Yes, I imagined not that I was the winner in first place of the Boston Marathon, but that I was one of the runners of the race that was completing, anywhere, really, it didn’t matter to me, only that I had made it to the finish and was congratulated, a wreath of sorts placed around my neck as I passed across the line. I enjoyed this image every time I completed my final lap at Victory Field. I sped up as I rounded the curve. I told myself, “Julie, you’ve done it again. You are a winner.” Then, I’d leave the track, walk through the gate, and cherish that imagined wreath around my neck.
As I walked through Victory Field’s small parking lot, careful to avoid exiting cars so that they wouldn’t back into me, I’d imagine I was coming home from the Boston Marathon a winner, a protective foil draped over me. Nobody would drive me home. In fact, I was once in Boston’s Red Line station and saw marathon runners going home alone on the subway alone. Yes, alone. With that foil draped over them, the foil that told me they’d run the marathon. The solitude of these runners made me so uncomfortable that I guess that’s why I felt the need to congratulate them. Now, I realize that maybe what they felt inside was enough. After all, they were going home.
Or maybe not. It was hard for me to remember. Were they going back to lonely hotels? But as I left Victory Field, I changed the music to something else. I turned it down so that I could hear an oncoming car. You sure don’t want to be hit, to be so lost in a daydream and get yelled at by a driver, “Hey, watch where you’re going, idiot!”
I had to switch to treadmill running quite suddenly. I guess it was November. My fingers and toes told me to do so. My body told me to do so. When you are on your way home from Victory Field after a run and it isn’t even all that cold out, and you are convinced you can snap off every single frozen finger and every single frozen toe, and no daydream will cure that notion, it’s time to look for a budget gym.
I’m not sure when the mailing came. My mailbox is barely big enough for a postage stamp to fit in, let alone a letter. But along with the usual ads for tires for the car I haven’t driven for maybe thirty years came an ad for a gym called GymIt. GymIt? What a weird name for a gym. It turned out that GymIt was the new budget gym in town that believe me, turned out to be the best gym I had ever belonged to.
GymIt is operated by a couple of brothers to my recollection. The staff are always friendly and truly proud of the place. So when I showed up the day after the 2013 Boston Marathon, checked in, and said hello to the very kind staff person at the desk, I decided I might as well throw in my two cents. I said, “I’m not going to be daydreaming that I’m at Copley Square while I’m on my run today.”
I guess she misunderstood me. She asked me if I’d been a runner at the marathon, that is, Boston Marathons of past years. I replied, “Oh, no, not me. I only pretend. I daydream.”
She laughed. “Oh,” she said. “I get it.” We both laughed. “But you can pretend you’re at the London Marathon.”
“Perhaps,” I said.
“Enjoy yourself, Julie,” she said, waving. They call me by name because they see it on my tag when I check in. I headed off to the locker room, being careful to go into the Ladies’ and not the Men’s. One of these days, I’ll make that goof, but I haven’t yet.
So once on the treadmill, I set my player to something I’ve been using lately by Podrunner. It’s free running music you can download off the Internet. I decided to use what I’ve downloaded from their “Intervals” training program by “DJ Beatsmith.” Actually, I call him “Steve” when I talk to him in my head, because the other DJ’s name who does the Podrunner mixes is Steve Boyett, so I figure I might as well call them both Steve. I talk to them both in my head while I run, not out loud, but to myself. I tell them I can run faster than them.
Today, the guy to my right was running up a storm already. You really should have seen this guy. He was so into it, not that you could blame him after what had happened the day before. He was throwing punches into the air. I do the same thing, but only in my head. I punch out anyone who ever called me Welfare scum. Sure I do. But this guy, he was really punching, really throwing his fists while he ran. I thought that was cool.
So I began the treadmill. Soon enough, it was going up close to the speed of 4.0, then over 4.0 as I walked. I generally don’t let it go past 4.3. See, I’m short, only 5’1″ tall. So short folks like me can’t walk super fast. But all the while, all I could think was that anyone who ever looked down on me was going to have something to reckon with. Then, the music gave its signal to break into a run.
I knew that this particular mix would have me running for twenty minutes straight. Given that I took a bit of a break in there, I knew that twenty minutes nonstop was perhaps at my age, 55, not something I should take lightly. I knew I shouldn’t do this at breakneck speed. At the same time, I’d done it a few times before in the past couple of weeks, and knew my capabilities. How much could I push myself?
As I began to run, I chose a speed far slower than usual, under 5.0. Suddenly, I found myself into a daydream, and I didn’t look back.
No, I didn’t look back. I looked ahead. I watched the road ahead of me. I watched the pebbles. I didn’t want to fall. I concentrated. I thought of my legs. I didn’t think of my legs at all. My legs were not my legs at all.
I thought far, far ahead. I thought of a friend of mine, my friend Michael, whom I’d messaged with on Facebook the day before. My friend Michael who does not have a home.
I thought far, far ahead, to Copley Square. Ahead to Copley Square, to the Boston Public Library. Here, next to the library there is a grate where the homeless men and women sleep, by night, by day, to warm themselves.
No, Michael won’t be sleeping there. It is the day after the 2013 Boston Marathon and no homeless folk will be sleeping in Copley Square tonight, or anytime soon.
I thought far, far ahead as I ran on the treadmill, and the guy to the right of me punched as he ran. I punched in my head along with him and said to myself, Michael, this one’s for you.
I didn’t notice that DJ Beatsmith, whom I call Steve in my head, had signaled me to stop running. Or I guess I hadn’t noticed. In fact, the music had changed over to another mix entirely. I hadn’t noticed at all. I kept on running, and suddenly noticed that I’d gone on much longer than twenty minutes; in fact, I’d gone longer than thirty minutes. I had run nearly 5k. I kept on running and then there I was, the steps of the library, the Green Line entrances, the smell of sausages cooking, everything. I was there. Copley Square.
To my left, there had been a cycling of treadmill users. The two that had been there, two women conversing with each other had been replaced by two others who also conversed with each other. I thought that was amusing. The man to my right was about done with his run. I wanted to tell him, “You rock, fella,” but I didn’t. I figured it was unnecessary. I mere nod of my head was enough. Finally, I slowed my treadmill to a walk. I wanted to spend some cool-down time.
I thought of the foil draped over me. I thought of the blankets a homeless person such as my friend Michael might keep wrapped around him to stay warm on a cold night. I have passed by that grate many times. It is indeed warm there. I slowed the treadmill further. Michael, this one’s for you.
I passed by the desk and said goodbye to the GymIt staff. I had to wait a long time for the bus that evening. I didn’t realize that our town, Watertown, Massachusetts, would at the end of the week be at the center of the world’s attention. In fact, right where I was standing at the bus stop, where our tiny shopping malls were, hundreds of cops, FBI people, National Guard, media people, the military would be all over the place, and it sure wouldn’t look like what I was used to seeing. Sure, the atmosphere was tense. But for now, the sun was behind me, a nearly empty water bottle was nestled in my hand, and a daydream ran through my head, as free as daydreams can ever be.
Get ready, folks, for a good laugh….
My ex-therapist thinks I’m in the hospital right now. But she’s wrong…I’m not at the hospital. I’m totally off the hook with her and I don’t give a hoot.
I had phoned the hospital not this past weekend, but the weekend before, asking about care, specifically a week ago, that is, Monday the 11th, because the Admissions personnel weren’t exactly in last weekend due to the storm. I guess they decided the local Crisis Team should get in on the act. I’ve told my blog readers all this before, but in case you’re just tuning in, I’ll recap.
I told those Admissions folks no way did I want the Crisis Team showing up with the bells and whistles of police, ambulances, sirens, uniforms, and the like, so they’d better call first.
Now at this point I guess they called, and we agreed there would be no “home visit” if I agreed to make arrangements for Puzzle’s care, and show up at the hospital the following day. They said, “Call us tonight, and if you don’t remember by 8pm, we’ll call you.”
Did they remember? Nope. I phoned them maybe at around 8:30 or so, saying I was busy making a You-Tube. I said I was using Windows Movie Maker, and explained that this was free movie editing software that came with every Windows computer. I said I was making the You-Tube on request from a mental health website (not sure I mentioned the name of the website, but it’s healthyplace dot com’s Stand Up for Mental Health campaign) and I said the You-Tube was about empowerment and stigma and the advantages and disadvantages of “coming out” as a person with mental illness.
This information, all about “movie editing,” “software,” “You-Tube,” and the like rather overwhelmed this crisis worker. Keep in mind that most of their clients are not computer savvy, don’t have online access, and may not even know how to “keyboard,” as they put it, and often don’t have interest in it and don’t understand the value of it. So this crisis worker probably thought I was as together as can be.
You-Tube? Yeah, Julie’s fine. So everyone promptly forgot about me. Which was just what I wanted. And to tell you the truth, what I needed.
So I think my CBFS worker thinks I’m in the hospital. My ex-therapist thinks I’m in the hospital. How nice to have “disappeared.”
My psychiatrist phoned me, I think Wednesday night, saying, “Let me get this straight. You decided NOT to go into Walden?”
I can’t recall what I said, but I told her I had an appointment with a new T on Saturday, and that I would go to that appointment, and that was that. Apparently, my psychiatrist, Dr. P, didn’t phone anyone to inform them of my “decision.” Good.
Meanwhile, I signed up for a 5k not long before all this came about. This race is at the end of April. I told myself, “Yeah, Julie, fat chance this’ll pan out.” But I seem to be following through. I went to the gym Thursday and yesterday and ran quite a bit. I surprised myself at how well I was able to run. I felt strong and steady and happy and natural and felt no strain or soreness whatsoever. Yesterday I completed three and a half miles of combined running and walking, mostly running, and whatever walking I was doing was very, very fast, or at least fast for someone my height. Is it a myth that someone with short little legs is probably going to walk slower than someone with longer legs?
There is no reason I should have a crappy life. Why should I accept this lot? Why am I taking these “low expectations” everyone seems to be heaping on me? Why not reach for the stars? I am not scum, and I refuse to be spat on any longer. Move out of the way, you fuckers. This race is on, and I’ve got your number.
I must be the slowest runner on the planet. I figured it would be another month before I got past the 12-minute mark, but I accomplished that today. I surprised myself on my very first lap when I finished in 2:44, my fastest speed yet. No, I wasn’t sprinting, just going along at what I assumed was my usual pace.
When I started back running, I did a lap in 3:15. I figured I’d never get past 3 minutes.
Then, I figured I’d never be able to do two miles. After all, I’d done my mile so fast, so surely, I was burnt out. So I started off mile #2 nice and easy. Laps #5, 6, and 7 seemed to go by without much effort. I did 8 and it wasn’t hard, so I figured I’d tack on one more today.
Welcome, ninth lap. I wasn’t exhausted at all, just satisfied knowing I’d completed a couple of neat new goals.
Then I came home, got Puzzle, and we zipped around Watertown, had a blast.
I added to the last post that no, I was not going to stop the meds.
Service dog AND meds.
AND running. Yeah, I started that, too. Just a tiny bit. I’m being super careful. Not with Puzzle, either. I can’t run on the street, only on the track where it’s soft.
Oh, by the way, I heard they are going to re-do Victory Field! What does this mean? Will the track be even better? Will it still be 1/4 mile around? Will it still be absolutely gorgeous at sunrise? Will the ninth lap still be just so awesome? Will I ever be able to do nine laps? Thirteen laps like I used to?
I promise myself no more than thirteen laps.
So far, I have run four laps, one mile. Cool.
Well, gee, sometimes the music gets real decent and I just have to fly.
I must say, I am still feeling fairly decent, knowing that the hell I went through in April was not “me being sick” but something done to me by the chemicals meant to treat “me being sick.” And now, I’m doing less chemicals, so I’m happy about that.
I just did my budget and found out I’m more broke than I thought I was. I went into the red last month. At best, it will take not a few months, but two years to pay off my credit cards. Every time I board Puzzle, it wipes out all my progress and then some.
So I showed up at the gym Sunday, anyway, and I was going to re-do my membership, and now I’m relieved that the membership person wasn’t there. The guy let me go in and work out for free.
Wow. Where have I been all this time? Sitting here doing literally nothing for a month you’d think I wouldn’t be able to do a darned thing over at the gym, but I kinda surprised myself. I had a good time on the treadmill and then did the elliptical for a bit. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like to be exercising again. I walked on the treadmill faster than I can walk with Puzzle, and the exercise on the elliptical, I must say, is much more vigorous than walking. I wondered if I’d really experienced any joy at all since I was told to stop running, period, last May. Maybe that’s why afterward, I crashed real bad, just thinking about the fact that it was maybe a year ago that I was running up to five miles a day.
The acupuncturist said that they can do things to help me with my knee and I might be able to run again. You know, I never got a second opinion last year. I resigned, threw in the towel, gave up. It was completely horrible when my T told me how great is was that this had happened, because it would slow me down.
I never, ever justified what she said. Looking back, when I was running in the fall of 2010, preparing for my first (and I hope not only) 5k race, I felt damn good. I ate fine. I ate a lot, in fact. Go back and read my entries, things I said about how proud I was to have a strong body. The T I had didn’t force me into these babyish “weekly weight checks,” in other words, I was treated like a responsible adult…say what? I am an adult. Then I switched therapists. My new T didn’t understand my running, and immediately went under the assumption that I used my running to overexercise. I guess “running” equals “overexercise” and “yoga” equals “recovery exercise”? How cliche. I don’t like yoga. I took a yoga class once and felt fat and bored. To each his own. So when I had to stop running, she kept pushing the yoga and “healthy exercise” on me.
So, let me get this straight. She, and a lot of other ED specialist types, claim that yoga is something you do after you are recovered, and running is something you did when you were sick and burning calories. This is a gigantic assumption and blanket generalization on their part, don’t you think? If I had a therapist who was a runner herself or himself, it would be a whole different ball game, don’t you think? Only a runner understands the magic in it. When I was running, I left behind weight, body size, and calories, and spent about thirteen laps kicking ass in the sunrise.
So in December, when I ran my 5k, my T never, ever understood. And then I crashed. How could this relationship have possibly worked at all when there was such misunderstanding right from the start?
I used to bring my lunch to her office and eat it before our sessions. Nice timing, cuz the sessions started at 1pm. I found out later that she assumed I was being deceptive and that I was throwing up in the bathroom right before our sessions. It took ages to straighten this one out. No, I wasn’t overexercising, no, I wasn’t throwing up, in fact, I was doing damn well until she started not trusting me, not respecting me, putting me down, and treating me like a child. I started therapy with this woman in November 2010, and even in March and April of 2011 she still accused me of lying about being unable to vomit. So now I get why this therapist was not much use to me.
As I said in my comment to John (see sidebar) I plan to write an article about “informed consent” in care. This would cover the issue of trust as well, because it goes both ways, don’t you think? “Informed consent” means a lot. It means stuff like knowing why you are being given a med and knowing all the side effects. So if they’re giving a patient Seroquel and telling this patient it’s for anxiety, but behind this patient’s back they’re thinking, “Gee, it’ll increase his/her appetite!” well, the patient needs to know this motive. I’ve thought a lot about this one. If it’s “for my own good” then by all means, I deserve to know. I believe a patient should know what he or she weighs and that this should not be kept hidden. I could go on and on about this. When I write my article, I will present a good argument that treating a patient with respect and dignity means informed consent, honesty, and trust.
So anyway, I’m going to figure out how to join the gym and wiggle my way into paying as little as I can. Or maybe I can find an elliptical machine, that is, one that won’t break down and is okay with my body (most are awkward for me and I can only use certain kinds) for very, very cheap. But of course it has to fit into my postage-stamp-size apartment. Gee, that’s tough. Maybe I can get super good aerobic exercise flipping what remaining pennies I still have.
I’m going to take Puzzle out. Maybe if I put on some Dave Matthews, I can work up a bit of speed.
I have received a few e-mails from the Winter Classic 5k people reminding me to sign up. It’s hard to believe that it was less than a year ago that I ran the Winter Classic 5k 2010 on December 19 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It seems like light years away. I found the post I did December 23, as soon as I could muster up the energy to write about my experience running the race, and I thought I would re-post it now, for history’s sake:
MY FIRST 5k EVER: THE WINTER CLASSIC 5k, AN ACCOUNT BY JULIE GREENE
Tonight, I felt like giving up. I was at wit’s end with myself, my eating disorder, and the world. I wanted to hide and never be seen again. I had to shower, but did not want to take off my clothes and have to see my ugly body. So I kept my clothes on. I cried some. I felt very, very cold. Eventually, I called Frank.
“Julie,” he said, “you just ran a 5k. You didn’t give up then. You didn’t stop running, did you?”
“Well, you just have to keep going on.”
“Then put something warm on.”
I did. I sat at the computer a while, feeling lonely, just thinking, feeling like a complete failure. How could I feel this way, when I had accomplished so much?
I am reminded of many of the times when I had accomplished great things in my life. Depression had frequently followed. Often, when a writer such as myself completes a major project, he or she becomes depressed. It is like letting a baby out into the world. You just have to let the child go and make her way into the larger universe.
So I went back and opened the file that Frank had sent me. He had so cleverly created this document: It was a listing of the 5k race results, with my name highlighted, with ribbons around it, and my photo next to it–the photo of me, crossing the finish line. And whenever I opened the document, I heard the theme from Chariots of Fire. I keep on going back to it, and opening it, and scrolling down to my name, and listening to the music, and crying, and crying, and crying.
I feel a great sense of loss now that it is over. An intense feeling of sadness. Over a month of building up my guts to do this, and a month of running 5k daily to get ready, and a week of a bad case of “nerves.” And then, 34 minutes, and it was over.
I am reminded of the stories about 16-year-old boys who go out on their first dates. Only theirs lasts less than 34 minutes.
I remember when I first decided to do this race. I first Googled, “How many miles is 5k?” I came up with roughly 3.1. The Winter Classic 5k was 3.12, so when I practiced on the treadmill, that was how much I ran. On the track, I ran 3.25, or 13 laps. But when I realized that I could actually run 5k, 3.1 miles, I Googled “5k races in Boston” and came up with the Winter Classic 5k in Cambridge, Massachusetts (which is right near Boston and one bus ride away from where I live) on December 19, 2010 at 10:30am. Perfect, I thought. Frank thought it was perfect, too.
I told a few people. Some were skeptical. “Are you sure you’re eating enough to do this?” they asked.
Yes, they had reason to be concerned. It had been only a few months since I had started eating again after a long period of self-starvation called anorexia nervosa. Surely, they thought, wasn’t I just finding another way to keep from gaining weight? But yes, I was eating enough, and gaining. Slowly. Bite by bite.
My therapist, too, was less than thrilled. She wanted to discourage me from doing this race. I had to reassure her that I would eat, eat, eat and that I was not “overexercising.” As therapy proceeded, she forgot about the race, and I stopped talking about it, only because I didn’t want her to bum me out about it anymore.
You see, I run for many reasons: I run because I find that I enjoy it. I run because running is being kind to your body. I run because running helps you live longer and gives you strong bones and builds your muscles and cardiovascular system, and every system of your body. I run because it improves my mood and my self-esteem. I run because it helps me feel better about my body, this vessel that I have treated so badly for so long.
For you see, I have had this eating disorder for 30 years. Sometimes, it has been very bad and other times it has been only there a little bit. But always, there has been this relentless desire to be ridiculously thin. It simply does not go away. I can choose to strive for thinness, or I can fight the urge to starve myself. At different times, it has gone either way. But the desire never stops. It is like running a race with someone following you–close behind.
Last summer, I only wanted to starve myself to death. I had no will to live. Then, I found Frank. Suddenly, I didn’t want to die. Frank and I started eating together via Skype. I gained back some strength. Whereas in August I was struggling just to walk across the apartment from room to room due to starvation, by October I was walking the dog for miles and miles, and my heart was filled with joy.
Frank encouraged me to try running, something I had done in my 40′s (I’ll be 53 in a couple of weeks) so I did. I found that because of all the walking I was doing, running came easily. Right away, I could run a mile. The next attempt I made at running, I ran a mile and a half, and then two and a half miles. The next time, I ran 5k, and have been running 5k ever since.
So when I found out about the Winter Classic, I made a point of running 5k daily. Even now that the race is over, I plan to run 5k daily, possibly increasing my mileage now that I am faster. I found that as I ran, my speed increased once every couple of days. It was amazing that this was happening. I kept turning the treadmill up a notch. On the track, my speed would increase on the third mile. I have logs of my daily progress in my journal. Sometimes, I timed myself. Other times, I didn’t. I tried out different music, and wrote about some of my runs.
Race day was rapidly approaching. I began to get very, very nervous. I practiced everything. I watched the weather obsessively. I wrote down what clothes I wore at what temperatures, and what worked best. I tried to pretend it was race day, and ran at 10:30 on the nose, waking up a the exact same time, eating the exact same foods I would be eating, and drinking coffee at the exact same time. It worked. I had it down. I knew exactly what to do.
I received an e-mail instructing me to go to the Asgard, a bar in Central Square, Cambridge, to pick up race materials, on Saturday, December 18th. Great. This would be my practice run. The commute over there. I took the same bus in there that I would be taking in on race day, the #71, and transferred onto the subway. Once I got off the subway, I found that I was walking in the wrong direction somehow, but got headed the right way, and found the Asgard okay. Fifty minutes. A bunch of drunken Santas walked out of the Asgard as I arrived.
The race folks were very nice. They handed me an envelope, a bag, and a white race shirt, size small. In the envelope is a hat that says “Winter Classic 5k” on it. Inside the envelope, I would find out later, are a bib with the number 167 on it, and a computer chip, which looks like an arm band. I assumed this was supposed to be worn on my arm. The computer chip is used to measure the time it takes to run the race. They also gave me some pins to attach the bib to my jacket. The envelope even had my name on it! It was official!
The night before, I had one last skype with Frank before the race the next day. He gave me his last words of advice, then we had a skype hug goodnight. We made plans that I would call him on my cell phone as soon as the race was over.
The one piece of advice I remember that just about everyone gave me was, “Enjoy yourself.” But this is something you can’t plan on. It just has to happen. I slept that night better than I have in a long, long time.
I awoke 40 minutes before my normal wake-up time, at 3:50am, not realizing what day it was. Suddenly, I knew. I am running the race today! I am running the race today! I am running the race today! I got up and got dressed. Brushed my teeth very, very well. Decided, contrary to plan, to have a morning cup of coffee. I took some aspirin. This was planned. At 6, I had a banana, an egg, and a glass of milk, and my vitamins. I checked the weather obsessively. At 6:30, I got ready to walk the dog, Puzzle. I brushed her teeth. We were out the door at precisely 6:45, and we walked our planned 35-minute walk, listening to the music that I had planned for that morning. I was wearing two layers of longjohns under leggings, legwarmers, silk socks under cotton socks, my race shirt, and the usual jackets I wear while walking Puzzle. For the race, I had planned to wear only the long-sleeve T and a windbreaker over it.
I came back in with Puzzle, fed her, and did the rest of our morning routine. My friend skyped me to wish me good luck. We spoke briefly. Then at 8 I had some yogurt with wheat germ and brewer’s yeast. There was a lot of waiting around and time to get nervous, but everything was so well-planned that I felt secure and reasonably confident that things would go okay.
I had my checklist, and went over it a number of times. Keys. Check. Kleenex. Check. Cell phone. Check. I had to make sure that whatever pocket I put my cell phone in, it wouldn’t bounce around while I was running. I tested this out and worked it out okay. Bus schedules. Check. Bus pass, called, here in Boston, the “Charlie Card.” Check. I checked and double-checked, and refreshed the weather.com screen obsessively. It was going to be about 36 degrees out at race time, or so I thought, 38 degrees at the warmest part of the day. Supposedly. But it was due to be a good bit colder than that at the time I’d be walking to the bus, so I made a trash bag with holes in it, and I decided that I’d wear this to the bus stop. Smart thinking: it worked perfectly.
At around 8:45, I got ready. I had to work fast. I pinned the bib to my jacket, then pulled the plastic bag over me, and I was off. I walked–fast–to the bus stop, arriving at 9:03. The bus was due to leave at 9:10, but I knew it would leave a minute early. This was planned. It did.
As soon as I got on the bus, I took off the plastic bag. I unzipped my jacket’s armpits, and took the caffeine pill I’d packed for myself, and at my race food: a half peanut butter sandwich, a banana, and a small amount of orange juice. All planned. All written down. I even had a reminder beep on my watch tell me to do these things. The bus was nearly empty, and arrived in Harvard Square four minutes ahead of schedule. I disembarked, and headed for the subway. Here, a street musician was playing, but I had no time to give him money, because the train arrived just as I got there. One stop, and I exited the train, and had arrived in Central Square.
Wow, it was colder than expected! Jeez! I was wondering if perhaps I should have put on more clothes. Perhaps it would warm up, though. Weather, especially in New England, is very, very hard to predict. Apparently, the other racers were surprised by the weather as well, or so I found out when I reached the Asgard. People were shivering and rubbing their hands together. But everyone was in good spirits. I tried to talk to people. But nobody wanted to talk to me. People knew each other. Everyone had someone–a friend, a fellow racer, a spouse–someone else to hang out with, and didn’t want to bother with me. So I just hung around and picked up bits and pieces of information when I could. Mostly, I wanted to know where the bathrooms were, and if there were lines for them. I learned that there was a heated tent at the start/finish line. So I wandered over there, and found the tent to be cozy enough. I used the latrine. I had brought my own toilet paper, just in case they had run out of it. I figured I’d think of all possibilities. My major concern was that I didn’t throw my gloves into the latrine by accident.
Announcements on the loudspeaker indicated that the race would start in ten minutes. People seemed to ignore this and mill about. I knew where the start line was, but I didn’t know where to go. Some of the people didn’t know, either. I would have followed everyone else, but no one was going anywhere. At the last minute, I tightened my shoelaces, and tested them out, adjusted them again, tested them, and was satisfied. Another announcement indicated that the race would begin in five minutes. Finally, a formation was beginning. I figured out where the end of the line was. I wanted to be near the end of the pack, where the slower runners were lining up.
How would the race begin? How would I know to start running? I stood there, jogged in place, stopped, jogged in place again, and waited. Then, suddenly, people started running! A horn honked! We were off! At some point, I crossed the start line. I was racing! I was racing! I was racing!
The race starts and ends on Sidney Street, but most of it is on Massachusetts Avenue, between Sidney Street and Harvard Square, Cambridge, and back. I think I had to run about a quarter mile before getting onto Mass Ave. At this point, I was beginning to warm up and get into a rhythm. I am familiar with this “warming up” phase from my frequent track runs, when I run awkwardly for the first lap, and gradually gain confidence over the course of the next few laps. But this was a race. This was different. I wasn’t listening to music. All I heard was the slap of the other runners’ shoes on pavement, and the honking of horns, and panting breath, and occasional conversation. This was a race.
Would I finish last? At first, many people were passing me, and I worried a little that this would be the case. I stepped up my pace a little. Soon, I was passing others. Eventually, I passed more people than passed me. By the end of the race, many people whom I had passed were alternating running with walking. But it didn’t take long before I stopped thinking about whether I would come in last or not.
No, I wasn’t thinking about that. I wasn’t thinking about anything but what was ahead of me: the road. I wasn’t thinking about my dog, Puzzle. I wasn’t thinking about Frank. I wasn’t thinking about food, or calories, or how much I weighed. I wasn’t worrying about my eating disorder, that silently follows me everywhere I go.
I did, in a fleeting moment, remember, that there was a time that I wanted to die, and now I am running this race, running to celebrate living.
But the road was ahead of me, and I had to concentrate on it. Every bump. Every crack. Every little nuance. Because tripping could mean falling. Falling could mean getting injured, breaking a bone, even. Concentrate, concentrate.
And at once, I was only thinking of that. I had no body. I had no legs. I had no arms. I had no feet. I did not feel them. There was only the road ahead of me. I was totally focused. Zoned in. My eyes were fixed on one spot ahead of me all the time. I never looked back.
And I knew I was speeding up. It was early on that I felt this. I began to feel my body zooming, the way I race around when I walk Puzzle, faster than I knew I should be running ordinarily…but this is a race, I kept telling myself, this is a race! It’s okay to go fast! I felt the ground go by underneath me the way it has never moved before. I felt my muscles propel me the way they have never done in the past. This is a race! It’s okay! And as the race moved on, I moved faster and faster.
I began to recognize the streets. We were coming back to Central Square and near the end of the third mile. The race was almost over.
I didn’t speed up when I realized this. Not at first. I kept telling myself that I wouldn’t, that it wouldn’t make much difference if I sped up or not. But this is a race, and people speed up at the finish line, just to get to the end faster, I suppose, and because they get caught up in the excitement. As it was, I was caught up in excitement tenfold. So I sped up along with the others.
As I neared the end of the race, people along the sidelines were clapping and cheering! For me! I could hear them! Step by step, I bounded down the road toward the markers, and crossed the finish line.
And that was it. They asked us to hand in our computer chips. I took mine off my arm and put it in the bucket. I went and tried to stretch, but there was really no place to lean on. Then I noticed how tired my muscles were. This was no ordinary run! I realized that I had run fast, possibly the fastest I’d ever run 5k. Not knowing what to do next, I wandered into the celebration area, where people were already lining up for beer.
Beer? After a run? Really? The eating disorder in me thought about the calories in beer. I tried to find water, but couldn’t find it. A woman offered me a sports drink I’d never heard of. “Try it,” she said. “It replenishes.”
“It’s made of pear juice. It’s like Gatorade.”
“Really like Gatorade?”
What I meant was…well, you can guess. I took the can, reluctantly. And at once, when no one was looking, I glanced at the label, and looked at the calorie count. Yes, I admit it, I did just that. And then I drank the stuff.
I was thirsty.
I began to ask around about race times. Apparently, there was a list posted. After a lengthy attempt to find the list, I finally did find it, and searched, and searched, and searched for my name everywhere, and not finding it, began to suspect that something had gone wrong with my computer chip. So I located the van where they were tallying the times, and inquired.
“Are you sure you had your chip attached?” the guy asked.
“Yep, I’m sure,” I said.
“Where did you have it attached? It apparently didn’t register.”
“I had it on my arm.”
“Oh, you were supposed to have it on your ankle. The reader only goes up to your knee. Anything above that doesn’t register.”
“My ankle? My ankle! No one told me! There were no instructions! I thought it was supposed to go on your arm!”
“Sorry. But do you know your time? Did you time yourself?”
“No. But I’ve got a good idea. Thirty-four minutes. Can you write that down? Can you write me in? Can you? Please?”
So as it turned out, I got written in. I will never know what my actual time was, but I’m certain that it was around 34 minutes. That’s just under 11 minutes per mile. Not bad, considering I’m almost 53 years old. I’m sure Puzzle is proud of me.
I phoned Frank, but I couldn’t reach him. I guess he had stepped away from the phone at that moment. But I left a message letting him know that I had finished the race, and how happy I was.
I checked the bus schedule. I had only a couple of minutes to get to the bus, so I ran for it. And made it to the bus stop just in time. I called my brother while I was on the bus home. He races, and he was very proud of me. I told him that I was very surprised at how fast I ran. “Julie, no one runs slowly in a race,” he said. “So, when are you doing your next one?”
And now, a few days have passed. I have run a couple of times since the race. My legs feel good and my body feels strong. I feel that I can now run for longer periods and longer distances. I feel confident about my running and the soreness has worn off.
Perhaps now, as I write these words, and relive the experience, I realize what it all means now. The first 5k for me meant more than just my first race, but a celebration of all the things I can do. After all, I earned my master’s degree, didn’t I? And how many books have I written? Aren’t I also a mental illness survivor? Haven’t I knitted 17, yes, 17 sweaters for Puzzle, and I love her oh so much?
But mostly, I eat, and eat enough, and care for my body, and honor and cherish it and celebrate all it can do. And this is why I run this race.
And yes, I’m thinking about my next 5k.
You know, I haven’t read the article. I just went and found it, highlighted it, copied it and pasted it here. I keep thinking of all the tragedy that followed. I just can’t believe the turn my life has taken.
Those of you who have been reading my blog this past year know about the hospitalizations, heartbreak, It, starvation, and everything else that started up almost immediately after the race.
Things were really okay for a couple of months about a year ago, though, and I shouldn’t lose sight of that.