It’s been awhile. It’s disturbing to think how fast this summer is going, but I can’t say I’ll miss it. While I’ve had some great memories, this summer also marks another period of time I feel I’ve failed to figure out what’s going on with my health. I can’t tell you how many times tests I’ve had, how many times I’ve been pricked and prodded just to come up with no answers. And oddly enough, at this point, I’m okay with it. I don’t think I have any other choice. So onto another note.
Not too long ago I completed my first Ragnar Relay. As excited as I was for the race, it’s also what I feared most this summer because I knew if I wasn’t in good enough shape coming off my stress fracture not only would I let myself down, but an entire team of individuals as well. And with my rogue stomach I was sure something would go wrong on one of my legs. As much as I doubted myself and my running abilities, a funny thing happened out in Minnesota during the Ragnar. Other than a few minor issues, everything went A-OK.
There’s something so calming about travel for me. While I’m not exactly a fan of flying, I’ve done it so much in the past few years I’m very familiar with the process. The rumble of the engines as the plane prepares for take-off. The thrilling feeling as the front wheel lifts from the runway, and the weightlessness a few moments later when the back wheels lift off. Nothing is in your control. It’s here the blood always rushes to my head as I watch the buildings and landscape grow smaller and smaller through the porthole window. As my world disappears, I get to thinking. When I’m flying, smaller problems don’t seem to matter anymore. Perhaps it’s because I’m up 39,000 feet in the air in what feels like a large, tin can, but what’s most important to me always seems clear.
I closed my eyes on the plane ride home from Minnesota and replayed the whole trip in my head. The beautiful, rolling hills and manicured farmland. The endless fields of crop with perfect rows of corn, the stalks stretching upward to try and kiss the azure sky. The old barns with weathered red paint standing sturdily on the farmland like they have for so many years before. I saw the Mississippi River for the first time and I was awed by its breadth, the hungry waters lapping at the banks as the swift current moved steadily onward. Nature enveloped me and even though I was far from it, I felt like I was home.
And then there was my team. They are the family and friends of my former colleague and friend back when I worked for the nonprofit, and even though I’ve never met any of them before they welcomed me with open arms. As we traveled Minnesota via van full of sweaty runners I never felt awkward or out of place, and despite the long hours we were nothing but smiles as we cruised rural roads and raced the sun to the end of the day. Runners are a special breed (this is something I’ve always known) and the camaraderie a Ragnar Relay brings about is nothing I’ve ever experienced before in a race setting.
My race legs were all around six miles through various terrain. My first leg was in the early morning and I paralleled the Mississippi River as the sun rose over the trees and the rest of the world woke up. My second leg was in the evening, mostly on a highway through tall and dark trees as rain drizzled down on me. This leg humbled me. A steep and long hill through the last 1.5 miles caused me to walk/run, and as I alternated my pace my lungs screamed for reprieve. I muttered ridiculous things to myself like, “I’m having fun” and “you wanted this, dammit.” But as I crested the hill the trees opened up and I was rewarded with a beautiful view of the sun dipping low below the clouds on the horizon, illuminating a dewy field of green grass.
My last leg started in the dark the next morning and everything was eerily quiet as I ran through a sleepy town. It was this leg I worried the most about my stomach because I had gotten sick right before running and I cautioned my pace up my first and only real big hill. I was mostly alone with my thoughts here as I watched the sky turn from black to grey and I no longer needed my headlamp. The farther I ran the less I worried about my stomach and I told myself to enjoy this last run, my last leg of the Ragnar. The last few miles I smiled the entire way and about a mile out I was given another spectacular view of the river in the quiet morning. I felt alive.
It was out in Minnesota as I was finishing this last leg, my teammates cheering me on, I came to a realization. The only person who didn’t believe in myself was me.
I thought about this a lot on my flight home from Minnesota and it is something I want to work on as I go forward with my running and other life endeavors. There’s nothing wrong with chasing your dreams and I don’t want to doubt myself any longer. Instead of saying I can’t (whether it’s because I don’t think I’m healthy enough, or in shape enough, or whatever the excuse) I want to say I can and believe it.
I can and I will.
As most of you know for so long I’ve been waiting for some sort of answer in regards to my health. And I realized as much as I want this answer it’s more because I feel like I need some sort of validation for all the times I felt unwell and needed to cancel or change plans. There are so many times I feel as if the sickness I feel isn’t taken seriously because I don’t have some sort of medical explanation. This hurts me. Sometimes I feel like people think I’m making it up and for so long this is why an answer was so important to me. And not only did I want the answer for other people, but also as a validation to myself so I could feel better about my botched training and lack of energy to do much writing. But no more excuses. I don’t need an answer to get on with my life.
The Ragnar Relay helped me believe in myself again and for that I am so grateful. I walked away from the experience not only with new friendships but a hunger to be my best self, to trust the process, and believe in me.
© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved