I once met a woman with MS. Her mother was my college!sister’s Godmother. During thanksgiving, we went to visit her at the hospice center where she lived. She was completely immobile, her hands looked like arthritis had played a dirty dirty trick, and her eyes wandered about the room, constantly looking for something new.
I don’t remember her name. I do remember feeling terrified. Multiple Sclerosis is a relatively terrifying disease, with many stages, symptoms, onsets, and no cure.
On Friday afternoon, I got a text from my friend, asking me if I was going to be attending this 4 mile walk, to which I responded, “There’s a walk this weekend I don’t know about?!” as we were figuring out the details, I registered for it online. There was no fee, just a suggested donation/raising of funds for $50.
Saturday arrived, and my friend picked me up half an hour earlier than originally planned, because her friend thought there was something we needed to be early for. Turns out she was incorrect, and her friend showed up about 20 minutes after we did.
We all chatted, and one who was in the army offered me some unsolicited advice on how to lose weight. It involved interval running, and building up to a set amount of miles. “When you let your heart rate go back to normal, and then raise it, and repeat that cycle, the weight just drops off like that!” she explained to me with a snap of her fingers.
I was quite happy to explain to her that I was already doing something similar, though, as with everything, when I start talking to strangers I tend to start stuttering, and lose my confidence, therefore trying to end the conversation as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for me, ( I don’t remember her name) she had a 5hour Energy, two red bulls and a handful of other ridiculous energy boosters that may or may not have been laden with sugar as well. She continued talking to me, telling stories and eventually drowning out the speakers as the “race” was beginning with her chatter.
The countdown began, runners were called to the front. I was right at the imaginary starting line, and decided, “What the hell! I’ll start off jogging.” And so I did. For about… 25 seconds. And then my legs started hurting real bad.
The last time I got any real mileage outside was probably the end of September when it became to cold and rainy and dark to continue walking home from work. Since then, I’ve used the treadmill and elliptical machine, and the difference was stunning. My first shinsplints set in, and my legs felt like lead. My music was bumping, and I tried to get into it, but singing while walking always leaves me a little breathless. So I started to really focus in on my breathing, the “left-right-left inhale right-left exhale”.
At the end of the first mile, there was a station with port-a-potties and volunteers handing out water and orange slices. I grabbed an orange slice gratefully, bit down and sucked out as much juice and pulp as I could in one bite, then threw the masticated carcass in the trash, about two yards head. I kept going. At that point, I noticed the pain in my legs had gone away, my breathing had evened out, and I wanted to finish as quickly as possible, so I picked a place to start jogging, and went to a predetermined place to start walking again.
I did this again and again. Of course I forgot to count how many times this happened, but I would say no less than 7 times. Each jog wasn’t long, maybe 10 or 15 seconds, but it was more jogging outside than I had done all year (which is to say, I haven’t jogged outside at all this year) and I was pretty happy to do it. At one point I really hoped we were already on mile three. I was ready for it to be over. Just as I was wondering how far left there was to go, there was a sign posted that said, “Congratulations! You are half way done!” Instead I pulled my shoulders back and marched onward. (I think I used that sign as a starting place for a jog, actually.)
The MS Walk took place at Lake Hood, which is right next to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. It is the busiest float plane lake in the entire country, however it was still frozen over while we were out there. We saw a handful of planes take off, and one even held up a hoard of walkers just in front of me.
Finally I could see where the walkers were turning off into the parking lot where the race started. I considered jogging the last bit of it, I felt I had it in me, but when I saw that the walk truly wasn’t timed, I decided to just walk instead. As I was turning the last and final corner into the parking lot, I saw a car full of my new friends, waiting for me to finish! It was nice to see them cheer me on. I finished the four miles in approximately 1:08, according to my friend’s timer. 17 minute mile average. Pretty slow, I think, but I’ll take it. Its better than not finishing at all!
Afterward, I grabbed a hot dog and some water. We ate them in her car, and I got ketchup on my face. She drove me home, and then I took a long bath, and a 4 hour nap. It was a good day. Perhaps next year I’ll actually try to raise some money. I sure would like a teeshirt!