That first step...
That first step out of a warm bed onto a cold floor is the hardest! But I just realized, that movement is one I take for granted. I remember one or both of my brothers who suffered from Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy calling out to Mom in the mornings declaring they were ready to get up. It was an hour long process, carefully moving one son's limbs into the commode chair and rolling to the shower. Then back to his bed so Mom could get him dressed and finally into his electric chair. The process would be repeated for the other son.
Stephen and I don't talk much at this wee hour of the morning, both being half asleep still, our blurry eyes barely making out the numbers on the clock. We each have our tasks; I get the camel backs ready with water and orange flavoured Gatorade along with the food we usually carry on our long runs and Stephen makes the smoothies. It's been over two years now since we've been making them. Stephen has become an expert at knowing which flavours blend nicely and which ones don't. The general rule is to stick to similar coloured foods and always have an emulsifier. We stopped using spirulina (blue-green algae) a while back. Although it's a runner's superfood, who wants to smell dead fish at that hour of the morning?!
The frigid temperatures do a great job of slapping us awake and suddenly we are eager to run and get warm! Our bodies usually complain the first few kilometers, trying to convince us that it is way better back in bed where the rest of the sensible world is! But we press on and our weird little aches and pains seem to dissipate into the darkness. Our world is reduced to the bubble of light dancing directly ahead of us, coming from our headlamps. It is such an intimate setting, shrouded in darkness and stillness. Nothing moves, no sound is heard, except for the soft landing of our feet and that freight train rumbling by. Oh wait, that's me breathing... We are different runners that way. I have never suffered an injury in all the times I've run but everyone can hear me coming! On the other hand, Stephen always looks like he's strolling through the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon but he always seems to be recovering from some injury or another. That is the beauty of our partnership. Our children always say if we could become one body, we would be the perfect runner!
It feels like we are the only two people left on this planet. The River Valley belongs to us this morning, we have ran all along it's length and back again. I carry a map in my head, I am familiar with all its curves, every foot bridge and single tracks. I can't help but smile, like hanging out with a close friend. There is no where else I would rather be but here, under the stars, running alongside my soul mate. There is an unhindered connection between mortal and deity when the body is coerced into doing something difficult, retreating into the dark recesses of the mind. The mind suddenly has free reign and dominates over matter. Unfortunately, those moments never last very long. A bump in the road or an upcoming hill will jerk the body back into consciousness and the battle of mind over matter is fought, over and over again. I refuse to let my body win! It has put me through too much already to claim that victory.
In 2006, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. In 2011, I developed a serious reaction to one of the medications I was taking. My doctor said it was one of the worst cases of psoriasis he had ever seen. I should have been hospitalized. My skin was raw and my hair fell out. I could suddenly sympathize with lizards who shiver from cold when it gets below 25 degrees C! I admit, at times, I had thought of ending it all but I would think about my brothers; how they lived every day betrayed by their bodies and still finding strength to smile and play practical jokes. They had no choice but to rely on those around them for every movement, every action, every task. So, I would fight back as best I could too! I ran, willing my body to push through the pain, willing my mind to focus on my Heavenly Father with whom true power lies. By the end of my runs, my feet would be bloody and raw from the lesions but my heart soared from triumph! Endorphins are so addicting!
It is a slow realization that we can see details around us, no longer relying on our headlamps. The magic of the night is burned away with the first few rays of sunlight. We are privileged to be witnesses of this day's first sunrise. My heart pinches a little thinking about all those sleeping people who are missing this ordinary miracle! I cannot help but feel a strength beyond my own reviving my limbs, my heart, my dreams. These moments are the ones that make it worth the struggle! I can't help but see the faces of all the boys we run for; my brothers Lehi and Mathoni, my nephews Shadamerhr and Cedric, our friends' boys Benson and Nich and all those families affected by muscular dystrophy for whom we are rooting for! Tears always threaten to throw off my breathing pattern and so I swallow them but I cannot express my gratitude for all those ordinary heroes who may never be recognized but who inspire countless others like me to see the good in life and become bigger than their bodies.