Friday, January 06, 2012

Trouble in the Locker Room

"So how do you like those socks?"

I flinch when he asks this, as he's violating my own personal locker room code of ethics with both his proximity to me and his volume. My nickname for him is "Cross-Fit Guy", so you can pretty much imagine him without any further description. I don't particularly care for him, especially after listening to him complaining loudly to the gym attendant (a sweet, soft-spoken guy) about someone spending too long hanging upside-down from the same gym contraption he wanted to do his 500 dips on. If our two elementary school-age kids can solve their problems without tattling, I think Cross-Fit Guy can do the same. I say I like the socks while I pull them off and I silently hope to god we're done here. We're not.

"Those are the only socks that don't get soaking wet when I run two to three hours", he says. "Oh really? That's a long time to be running," I say. In a moment of weakness I throw him a bone. "So, do you run marathons?"

As he blathers on about several endurance accomplishments I make a mental note to henceforth keep my earbuds in until I'm undressed and on the way to the shower. Thankfully he doesn't even bother asking if I run.

I hope my years of blogging are something more than the locker room ramblings of Cross-Fit Man, and that the experiences I share from time to time these days can offer something of value. When I think back on the post-race mope-fests and Tuesday morning quarterbacking in some of my posts I'm reminded of what a small, perfect bubble I lived in.

Yesterday I shared a link to a funny story with Kiera about Ben Gibbard's Runner's World interview. "I started to look at what I do for a living through the lens of doing a marathon. The marathon was the most difficult thing I've done in my life. To get through that, it made me realize I can get through anything. It really did shift something in my brain, flipped a switch I didn't even realize was there. Whenever someone I know says, "I could never do that." I think: That's exactly what I thought!"

Like most runners, I get what Mr. Gibbard is saying, but I also find it pretty quaint. Being in the N.I.C.U. with your second-born soon immediately after delivery is more difficult than a marathon, so is carrying your daughter into the doctors office with a full-body rash and swollen legs (Henoch-Schonlein Purpura), or watching her suffer partial short-term paralysis and blindness after a scorpion sting while in the emergency room waiting for the anti-venom. The three ring circus of getting Multiple Sclerosis and going through the steps, procedures and tests in order to receive the diagnosis is harder still.

Running is a choice, plain and simple. It's always an Elective in life's course load, and as such anything one does with it can't be compared to the challenges life can pile on you.

For years Kiera would argue with me when I called a racer courageous. I think I probably copped the phrase from Phil Liggett's Tour de France commentary, and for some reason it stuck. She was right and I was wrong. An athlete can have perseverance, but courage is overdoing it.

Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis takes courage. Sometimes I have it, and often I don't. I do have the courage of my convictions, or the template I follow in dealing with this, and I can honestly say I feel like I'm succeeding. It hasn't been easy getting to this point, and it takes work to stay here.

Running is a necessary part of this template, and I feel like I'm finally making a bit of progress in this arena. Brooks extended my tenure as a Project I.D. Member, which was very kind of them, and I plan on competing in as many of my Running Club's Grand Prix events as time will allow. Mystery Coach thankfully keeps an eye on me, and I'm going back to the very basic lessons of Arthur Lydiard and trying to get myself as good a base of running as I can maintain before hopefully transitioning to faster training. Stay tuned.


Niamh said...

I found your blog after you had been diagnosed with MS and it made a huge impression. At the time I was training for my first marathon and fundraising for a charity connected to my sister's chronic illness (doing well just now) and we did parallel blogs. As we wrote our respective blogs the 'elective' nature of my activity, as you so well put it, became more and more obvious to me. Your blog has touched me deeply. And today again.

Sarah said...

I came across your blog while searching for information on Lydiard training. I started at the beginning and read every post you have written, like a book. You are an amazing writer with a very open and honest perspective on things. Your blog has had quite an effect on me. The suffering we undergo while running truly is just "elective" and doesn't hold a candle to some of the other challenges life throws at us. Thanks for sharing and I look foward to your future posts.

Cruiser said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences here on your blog.

Mike said...

Finally catching up on comments after some time away. I do appreciate the kind words, and I hope to continue posting when I can.