Facing Fears

By Stephen Price 11 years ago
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I’ve been told I need to blog more, and, it wasn’t the first time.  The truth is, my running in the past year has been more of an embarrassment than anything else.  Why would I want to talk about that, and, how can I get motivated to reach out to others looking for their own motivation when I can’t seem to run more than 5K these days?

Well, I guess I could start by being honest with myself.

I quit playing squash not long after I fell in love with the sport.  That was a long time ago…back in the days when I still needed a comb!  I had quit because running was so important to me that I feared not being able to run.  I feared an injury that I didn’t even have based on others falling victim to mixing the wrong sports together.  I felt that squash and running didn’t mix so I dropped it and shortly thereafter my fear of not being able to run solidified further.

The fear became almost an obsession.  Go mountain biking for the weekend in the mountains?  No way, what if I hurt myself and can’t run my upcoming marathon?  Swimming? Are you kidding? I could pull something!  I had put all my eggs in the same basket as if I was some sort of front runner or future Olympian.  (I was not nor will be).

So I ran and I ran and I had this love hate relationship that I believe most long-distance runners have.  I completed many marathons and shorter races, some fast, most not.  As I crossed each finish line I swore that would be the last marathon and then I’d be signed up for another within a week or so, hating myself as if I just indulged in a fast food meal.  I had running issues, what can I say.

When I moved to Costa Rica for health and financial reasons my running changed drastically.  I was no longer teaching in-store clinics which meant I didn’t ‘have to’ show up for a run that day.  So the frequency that I ran changed considerably as did my distances.

Living on the beach in Central America, although fantastic in many ways, meant having to get up at 4:30AM to run if I didn’t want to experience the ugly side of sunstroke trying to accomplish 5K.  Running more than 5K meant having to do so along the side of the highway where the concept of shoulders hadn’t be considered and the width of a vehicle was typically wider than that of the lane.  My running ability and consistency changed drastically.

Eventually, when I was ready to get serious again, I moved to San Jose – the capital of Costa Rica – to train in a park where running 20+ KM was possible and at a more comfortable +22 each evening as the sun went down.  Flat, cooler and safe. Perfect!

Training went well and then I took off to Ireland to tackle my demons with a ridiculous personal challenge.  Well, you know what they say, better to try and fail then not try at all…

Post Ireland my life has been about floating from one country to the next.  Seeing and running the world without the typical limitations of lack of time or punching a clock.  Although I was no longer training for some big event or pumping out ridiculous mileage, I was literally running all over the world.  Life was fantastic!

There’s a saying that goes something like all great things must come to an end.  I don’t buy that, necessarily. I believe that all things need to reset themselves.  People as well.  And, I was about to have my reset.

I noticed that my running was becoming more and more difficult.  We had been on the go for some time, covering a large chunk of South East Asia and I figured it was taking its toll.  Eventually I told myself to focus on just 4 to 5K a day and that the heat of Asia was the problem.  I kept my grand plans to train for another ultra with a few marathons for “fun” in between, but some deep, dark doubt inside me was slowly taking over.  Had I let my training slide that much?  Just 9 short months ago I was scheduled to run 33K a day for a month across Ireland.  What happened?

As it would turn out, the deep, dark doubt wasn’t the only thing growing inside of me.

One early morning in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand I returned from a short, labored run bleeding from a place no one should ever bleed from.  That said and as a runner, I’ve bled from a few of those places before, but not like this.  Not after only 5K.  Something was definitely wrong.

I kept it from my girlfriend for a few weeks but as I bled more and more doing less and less, I knew it something I needed to get checked out.  Luckily, I was scheduled to return to Canada for a month in the upcoming weeks.  As my girlfriend wasn’t able to obtain a Canadian Visa, I would have to make this journey on my own.

I continued to keep it from my girlfriend even after it was diagnosed as a ‘highly suspicious colon tumor’ that needed immediate attention.  What was I supposed to do?  Call her 10,000KM away and tell her I may have the dreaded C word?  Not likely.  Besides, maybe it wasn’t and why scare her?  More importantly, I had finally come to my senses and had purchased an engagement ring for her just prior to finding out my diagnosis and had plans to meet her in Barcelona to propose.

I convinced my doctor to let me go to Barcelona for a month, propose, spend the time with her, ease her into what happened and then come back to whatever had to be done.  He agreed and off I went, staying positive and looking forward to the proposal and hopefully getting some shorter runs in Barcelona.  Hey, my doctor never said I couldn’t keep running so really, whose to blame here?!

A few days later I proposed to Vanessa in a small park adjacent to la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  She accepted.

We had rented a flat nicely centered between La Rambla and the cruise port which offered a wonderful place to run high above the coast as long as you didn’t mind 302 steps to start and finish your journey.  I managed to get a few morning runs in before I shared the news with Vanessa.  She took it well, all things considered, and we then took off to Paris to apply for an emergency Canadian Visa.

She was granted the Visa two days later and the following day I was admitted for emergency surgery while still in Paris.  My body was fighting me again, or perhaps, I was fighting it.

A few short weeks after engagement and already Vanessa is having to care for me in ways that would embarrass anyone.  The only times she steps out of our hotel in Paris is to bring back food, medicine or supplies for me.  There will be no Eiffel Tower pictures or shopping on Champs-Élysées, not this time.  She is an amazing woman and I am amazingly fortunate.

In less than two days she will be traveling with me to Canada for the first time; two and a half years after first meeting her.  She will be by my side during my amazingly fast come back that I have planned!  I couldn’t be happier!

I find that my running and health has been like taking on a marathon.  It started out strong and probably a bit too quick, then I calmed and found my rhythm for a while.  There were some long, lonely stretches that seemed to go on forever and some nice downhill’s where it all seemed just a little too easy.  These particular days may be like hitting the Wall, but like every marathon I have ever run, I will find my way past this obstacle and sprint to the finish strong, arms raised and already thinking about taking on the next challenge!

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