It’s no secret that I don’t run.
The running joke (pun completely intended) in my life is that if you see me running, you probably should be too – because something is following me.
Well… A few months ago, I stumbled across a registration link for the Your Next Step Is The Cure 5K benefiting the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation – and the next thing I knew, I was pulling out my credit card to pay the application fee.
“I’ll train, it’ll be fine,” I rationalized it out in my mind – knowing full well the reason that I don’t run is anything but laziness. You see, I’ve fought my entire life (literally) to be able to run. For sports, for exercise, for the clarity of mind everyone says that they get from the ‘runners high. But, when every time I tried to run I’d face excruciating pain, and the occasional dislocated hip bone… Instead, I found a passion for sports that didn’t involve long distance running. I learned to
hate love alternative cardio exercises. I learned about meditation and the power of yoga.
Do you ever just get angry with your body for not doing what you feel it should be able to? Yeah, me too.
Like I said, not being able to run doesn’t stem from laziness for me. A lot of people know I have “bad hips,” but very few people know that my “bad hips” are actually a congenital condition called femoral anteversion – better known in layman’s terms, due to the visual physical manifestation of its symptoms, as “pigeon toe.”
Femoral anteversion is an inward rotation of the thigh bone (femur) that can be caused by both genetic factors and position during formation in the womb. It occurs in 10% of children, and widely affects girls more than boys. I was the 1 in 10.
When I was not much younger than this photo, I had a pair of special Reebok shoes that I would wear to bed at night – there was a corrective bar connecting the shoes to assist my muscles in developing in the correct position. These types of devices are no longer used for correcting it, but they were still a popular practice in the early 90’s.
The good thing about femoral anteversion is, while it definitely makes learning to walk (and run) more difficult, the majority of kids eventually grow out of it with no need for surgery. I was lucky enough to be one of those kids who never needed surgery – but I certainly have had my share of physical therapy, at-home stretching, and continued side effects… and pain.
Something else that many of the people outside of my hometown don’t know about me is that – on October 4, 2011, my life was changed forever. My greatest mentor, a woman I had grown to know and love over the course of ten years, lost her hard-fought battle with lung cancer. Nancy Collier, known by some as Mrs. Collier – known by many as “Ma” – challenged me, pushed me, nurtured me, shaped me. And I knew that when I saw the opportunity to raise money for lung cancer research, hand in hand with a chance to put this nagging feeling I had about wanting to prove I could run to the test – it was time to conquer my fear of running once and for all.
So, I did it.
I woke up early on Saturday morning (that was the easy part for me), laced up my running shoes, and off I went to USC Upstate to run my very first 5K.
I jokingly tweeted that my first 5K taught me 3 things:
1. Cold air is awful.
2. Plantar fasciitis is no joke.
3. I am completely incapable of pacing.
And let me tell you, I still stand by all three of those things.
But, I did it.
There’s something special about conquering your fears – and for me, overcoming years of excruciating hip pain and dislocation – to do something that is a mountain for you, but a mole hill for seemingly everyone else.
Don’t get me wrong, I could barely walk for a solid 36 hours after the initial hip/hamstring soreness set in. But what I gained in self-confidence and mental strength has me thinking I might just do something crazy like run another.
Today would be Ma’s 68th birthday, and I’m missing her as much as ever. But this year I feel a little more connected to her… She always was the one encouraging me to overcome my fears, no matter how scary (or painful) they seemed.
And (as she was with most things) she was right.