It is hard to believe 2017 marks five years since I graduated from Bucknell. Like many individuals realize after graduation, there are so many aspects of college I miss. There was always something to do, something to learn, and I loved having a community of friends all around me. And because I was a part of the cross country team, I had a close circle of great friends at my doorstep who loved most of the things I did (running, obviously) and had similar priorities.
I’ve made a lot of changes in my life since I graduated back in 2012, the most being just in the past year. I left a job where I was unhappy, I got married, I started running again, I got sick, I found a diagnosis, and I started putting myself first. None of this has been easy (except the getting married part – 100% sure on that one) but life isn’t about making easy choices. And as we close on 2016 and I struggle to deal with treating my Lyme disease, I’ve realized now more than ever, I want to make a difference.
This past weekend I was back in New Jersey for a best friend’s wedding. The weather was perfect, and Erin and I hit up all our favorite running stomping grounds. We ran in Thompson Park, where I used to speed along the reservoir trail hopping roots expertly, the trail memorized from repetition. Thompson was my place of solace, the trails seemingly hidden from the world. It was a place I could think and rebuild myself when feeling broken. This weekend, as we gingerly picked our way through the layers of fallen leaves hiding the treacherous roots we no longer knew, the sharp memories of high school flooded to the surface. The past is a complicated place to tread.
I’ve always been great at keeping secrets, but the ones I kept in high school were often detrimental to my health. My depression, anxiety and disordered eating are issues which affected me deeply and shaped my life for many years. Few people knew, and eventually I overcame these challenges but not before first seeking help. And that’s why last year I set out to write a memoir about these challenges in hopes I can make a difference in others’ lives. And even though this goal has been derailed by my lyme, it’s one I won’t give up on. Even if my story helps just one person, I’d consider it a success. Those challenges helped shape who I am as a person but what I didn’t know then is I didn’t have to go at it alone.
Lyme disease is just one more challenge in my life I will overcome.
After thompson park, when we got back to the hotel that night, we switched on the TV to try and unwind. But it was broken. We snickered quietly as hilarious pixelated images tried to come to surface on the screen and eventually the maintenance man gave up and brought in an entirely new TV. He switched on the TV and flipped to a random channel and I watched as a giant deer tick flashed to the screen. It was a news clip about the seriousness and complexity of lyme, and the newscaster shared the story of a young girl struggling with the disease. Our laughing stopped. We watched silently as this girl’s story was shared. For years she went undiagnosed, and among other complications, lost her ability to walk.
I’m not going to say this story made me realize how much worse others have it or how lucky I am, because I already knew this. What I did realize is I am still avoiding accepting I actually have lyme. Despite the many pills I take every day, my doctor’s diagnosis, and the sickness I feel, I’ve been avoiding looking up any lyme disease resources or acknowledging my feelings. The girl’s story made me feel an overwhelming sadness. It took many years for her to get a diagnosis. In comparison, it took me only a year and although this felt like a lifetime to me, I’m grateful I had the knowledge to get further testing before my health got worse. Watching her story re-lit a fire inside of me – the one that wants to make a difference.
So, let’s go back to those 57 miles in the title of this post. Pretty much my entire four years at Bucknell, I dated a member of the men’s cross country team (he’s now my husband!) and I learned about many xc traditions they upheld. But only one always stood out in my mind. It involved one or more seniors running from the Penn State track to the Bucknell track at the end of the outdoor track season. I don’t know why they did it or how long ago it started, but each year I was there it happened. No one trained specifically for it – they just ran. It is 57 miles of hard-earned tradition. And one I’ve always wanted to be a part of.
2017 Bucknell Homecoming will be November 3-5, and it will be the five year marker for me. In celebration (and a bout of insanity), I’ve decided I will be running the 57 miles from Penn State to Bucknell. I haven’t decided if I’ll run November 2 or 3, but my main goal for this run is to raise money for lyme disease research. I’ve yet to pick the foundation I’ll be donating the money to (I’ve got it narrowed down between two non-profits – I’ll choose soon) but once I decide, you’ll be sure to see a post.
This won’t be easy and I’ll be the first to admit I’m afraid. But when I think about all the challenges I’ve already overcome in my life, I know I can do this if I train smart and listen to my body. I have just about a year to train for this event and get my fundraising in order and honestly as much as I’m nervous I’m also excited. After all, it’s good to be nervous about things. It means you care.
So how will I do this? I’ll be ramping up the mileage slowly and taking time to cross train when I feel too sick/tired to run. I’m going to start strengthening again. And I have only two other races on my 2017 schedule strategically planned to help get me used to longer distances.
In March I’ll be racing the Tennessee Ragnar Relay as part of an ultra team. If training is going alright, I plan on taking one of the higher mileage positions so I’ll end up running 30+ miles over the course of 24 hours. Then in April I’ll be racing the DC Northface 50k. It will be my first “real” ultra and my training for this race started this week! Hokas will be my best friend.
I’m not even going to pretend like I think this training will go smoothly, especially with the absurd amount of medication I’m currently taking. My biggest (and most important) challenge for training will be NUTRITION and learning what my body will accept pre, during and after runs. But I’m not going to give up on any of this. Even though my body may physically not be at its prime, my strong mentality has always been what gets me through distance running.
Sooooo, save the date for Homecoming 2017 because it’s going to be amazing. If you have any interest in being a part of my support team that day, or if you’re a Bucknell Alum and want to run portions of it with me, please don’t hesitate to message me. I have a year to get this all figured out, which seems like a long time, but I know it will fly by. I just couldn’t sit on the idea any longer!
Look forward to updates about my training and the non-profit I choose to fundraise for. I’ve never done anything like this before in my life, so if you have any tips I welcome your feedback.