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Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I started my Fitbit too soon, I had to stop it. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was excited. One by one, clouds of emotions rolled over me. Here I was standing under an overcast sky on an early Saturday morning in June waiting for the announcer to yell, “Go!”. I stood still, holding my balance strong while being bumped around by runners rearing to take off just as much as I was. I was at the starting line of The Baltimore 10 Miler. Thoughts of doubt, thoughts of disbelief, and thoughts of pride circulated through my mind.
Twelve years ago I couldn’t have foreseen this race on my calendar. I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of running a ten mile race. I had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age twenty. I cried when I learned of my diagnosis. All I could imagine in that moment was myself crippled and helpless by my thirties. I found myself taking nine pills a day and a bi-weekly injection just to relieve the pain from the disease, spending my twenties in a mostly zombie state from the medications. I passed on activities with my friends and spent many of my days on the couch or in bed, too tired to even play with my son. I felt lifeless.
Four years ago, my life was shaken when I was let go from a very stressful and long job. I lost my healthcare benefits and was left unable to afford my medications. Though I didn’t realize it then, this was one of the best things that happened to me. This was an opportunity for a transformation. It was in those moments after that I woke up and realized it was now or never for a lifestyle change or I would wither away, drowned by the pain and the frustration of the disease. I started practicing yoga twice a day. I gave up fast food and junk food and I started studying my disease. I started reading how to manage it organically. I taught myself how to eat better. I started using essential oil therapies. I meditated, and I learned my limits and how to schedule resting and recoup time into my weeks.
At the end of April of this year I committed to The Baltimore 10 Mile Race. I only had a few weeks to train. My mind was reminding me how tough this was going to be, but in my heart I knew this was something I needed to do. I started running about two years ago, but not consistently. I hadn’t run more than three miles prior to this. My training was slack and race day came upon me fast. I set a goal for myself to finish the race in two hours.
Standing at the start line I shook, this was really happening. The first mile was awesome. I knocked it out in ten minutes. I felt absolutely liberated. By mile five, I was hurting. This was a challenge, but I refused to give up. I was determined to finish. I told myself to let the fear and doubts go. I told myself that pain was temporary, but conquering this was going to change me forever. I continued to push on, through mile six, seven, and eight. I made it to mile nine and tears rolled down my cheeks. It all hit me at once. I was beating my disease, and I was beating my fear. Almost every muscle and joint ached. My knees and hips were stiff. Yet I pushed on still. This was it, one more mile… uphill.
The moment I crossed the finish line was so much more than I thought it would be. In all of my life, I had never pushed myself that hard physically. The thoughts racing through my mind were chaotic. I was so proud, so happy, so relieved. I finished in two hours, 10 minutes, and thirty-six seconds. This event was truly a life changer. In that last moment crossing the finish line was the moment I knew from the bottom of my soul that I had made the decision to not let anything stand in my way of the life I wanted.