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March 11, 2010 / elodie kaye

Moby the Whale

Sara made a thoughtful post a few days ago about her “whale on white paws”, her anchor during changes in the past.  I suppose running has been more like a pivot point for me, a star that can’t stop the disorienting spin of change, but can always be found.  I’ve been running for over 10 years but I only became a runner in grad school.  Since that time, I’ve had cancer, beaten cancer, earned my PhD, watched my mother lose to cancer, stomped on the cancer again.  That bastard never stops.

During and in between those big changes, I ran.  Sometimes I could run a lot, enough to finish a marathon or two.  Sometimes, I ran only 3 out of 15 minutes, and called that a solid workout.  A while ago, I lost the ability to walk as a neurological complication, and I had to ponder what it might mean to be a runner who can’t run.  Looking back on it, I wonder at how placidly I thought about it.  I honestly considered it as a metaphysical question more than anything else.

I hear all the time about some doctor who tells his patient they’ll never run.  Mine never said that.  I can’t guess what he thought, but he and all of my physical therapists told me with one voice that they didn’t know, and that was enough for me.  It took a long time to walk again, six months of therapy 3 days a week, and I still needed a crutch on stairs.  It took even longer to run a quarter mile without stumbling or tripping.  Another 9 months.

Today, I have a slight asymmetry in my gait that I can hear when I get tired on long runs.  I haven’t put up a PR since then.  I’m not sure what kind of running is left in me, but if I have anything to say about it, I’m damn well going to find out.

I can’t really say that running helped me survive.  I don’t know what enables, or allows, some people to survive and others not.  Against the vastness of what’s unknown, the reassuring certainty of long runs, speedwork, and training plans is pretty puny.  Maybe I just run because I can’t do anything else, because you can’t will yourself to stop breathing.

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11 Comments

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  1. saragracer / Mar 11 2010 10:14 pm

    Moby is the whale. Tiga is my feral polar bear/pussy willow. I am humbled that my post could have even been vaguely connected to something so beautiful.

    You are a runner Elodie, if I ever knew one. I think of you as my runner-sage. I’m slowly finding out why you are so wise. Actually probably you were always so wise, and that’s why you have clearly dealt with pain and challenge with such graceful fight.

    • elodiekaye / Mar 12 2010 3:36 pm

      Silly me, I should have asked first! I’m going to edit the title, right now. I’ve been thinking about your post since you put it up. I was planning to comment, but I found myself having to make drafts because my thoughts were so unwieldy. Now that I have the flu, I finally found the time to put together something cogent.

  2. Keith Peters / Mar 12 2010 11:40 am

    Wow. Not much I can think to say that Sara didn’t say in her second paragraph.

    • elodiekaye / Mar 12 2010 3:38 pm

      See, this is why I hate to drop the cancer card. Nothing stops a conversation faster.
      Well, maybe the Holocaust. 😉

  3. Keith Peters / Mar 12 2010 9:20 pm

    You were in the Holocaust too??? 😉

  4. Timothy Wakefield / Mar 14 2010 1:45 pm

    Wow!! This post really puts things into perpsective and makes me feel ridiculous for ever complaining about a sore knee, a migraine, or a bad ankle. Best wishes to you, and I hope that someday soon you can log a new PR!! Have a great day, and I look forward to following your blog.

    • elodiekaye / Mar 14 2010 3:25 pm

      I didn’t mean for other people to take this post as a sermon on being grateful. Although I do think it feels good to really savor the things you have, I can’t live like that 24/7. My DM friends know I complain plenty about bad runs, bad weather, the flu… I think it must be our birthright as denizens of the western hemisphere to complain!

      Mainly I was thinking about those experiences in terms of Sara’s post: a human being can sustain quite a lot of change. I wouldn’t say it was exactly comfortable, but it feels like the growth I need to post a new PR is attainable against that landscape. I guess I was hoping that others would feel as though significant transformations are possible for them as well.

  5. Keith Peters / Mar 15 2010 8:57 am

    Oh, I know transformation is possible. I can divide my life into three completely different time periods, the last one starting about 10 years ago. Each one began with some kind of major transformation. I could foresee this running kick I’ve been on for the last 7 months as being the start of a new phase, though only time will tell.

    • elodiekaye / Mar 15 2010 2:52 pm

      Do you remember a brief conversation we had about BQs? Before your 5K, you were dubious, and I know you’ve gained a lot more confidence since then. At the time, I thought it was a good bet that you could have a 3:20 marathon, if you wanted one. Maybe you didn’t want to publicly put a number to the changes you think are possible, but this is all I meant by believing in transformation: big words for a small idea.

      I think if it’s possible to go from a wheelchair to running in 15 mos., a BQ isn’t crazy for either of us. Says the one who’s running 12mpm! 😉

  6. Keith Peters / Mar 21 2010 9:58 am

    I have to admit that far off in the distance, just over the horizon, I can just make out the sound a BQ beckoning. But maybe it’s just the wind. 🙂 Actually, when my friend convinced me to enter the NYC Marathon, he wanted us to shoot for 4 hours. I thought that was way too agressive and put 4:30, with major doubts about even that. Now, 4 hours doesn’t seem all that unreal. From that to 3:20, who knows?

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