Saturday, December 29, 2012

9 miles in Leah's shoes

Today I ran 9 miles. 

I'm not sure why I was dreading it so much, but I was. It was supposed to be around 15 degrees, but I was going to go early enough in the morning that the forecast of snow wouldn't have started. Kate had a rough night, so I had a rough night and I just couldn't get myself to roll out of bed on time. I dreamed that I ran the 9 miles on two separate occasions, so when I woke up to realize I actually hadn't run yet, I was already exhausted. I was mentally going to run 27 miles that morning. Ugh. I spent the morning completely procrastinating before I finally put on all my winter running gear and opened the front door. 

It was snowing. 

And not just light fluffy flakes. The kind that are half melted and then re-frozen needles pelting you in the face. But, off I went. I had gone no farther than a tenth of a mile before I thought, "I should turn around to grab my Tuck key card. That way, I can run 2 miles to campus, 5 on the treadmill at Tuck and then 2 miles back." So, I turned around. I got about halfway home before I thought, "Maren, you wuss. Just run." So, I turned around again, and I ran. About a half mile out, my fingers were already frozen stiff, snot was dripping out of my nose and my face was raw. 

By this point, the snow was sticking and I really wished I had put on my stableicers. Even though I had 8.5 miles to go, there was no way I was turning around. So, I slowed my pace and basically tip toed on the icy spots.

At mile two, I saw another runner. He was wearing a ski mask. That was smart. 

At mile four, I saw another runner. She looked like me. Miserable. 

At mile four and a half, I was so beyond done. My right sleeve was covered in frozen snot and my nose wouldn't stop running. That's when I thought: 

Huh. Leah's nose does this a lot. I bet that's kind of annoying. 

A few moments later, a song came on my running mix that I wasn't really in the mood for, but, my iPhone was underneath my jacket's spandexy mitten flap and my fingers were too frozen to get it out. I was so frustrated that I couldn't move my fingers the way I wanted. That's when I thought:

Huh. This is just a fraction of how frustrated Leah must feel because her hands and fingers don't work they way she wants. 

I continually stumbled on areas of the sidewalk that had been halfway shoveled - trying to balance on mixtures of freshly fallen powder and old, icy, compacted snow. That's when I thought:

Huh. I bet Leah gets tired of continually stumbling because she can't balance very well. 

And after that third a-ha, I thought: You are a piece of work, Maren Layton. You are complaining about a 9 mile run in the snow and you have no idea how lucky you are to be able to run 9 miles in the snow. Who are you running for anyway? You wouldn't be out here on a 9 mile training run if you weren't running the Boston Marathon. And you wouldn't be running the Boston Marathon if it weren't for Leah.

And that's when I started to cry. Only passersby didn't even know I was crying because my face was already covered with snow that had melted and then refrozen on my face. 

Then I came upon a car that had slid off the road at a roundabout and into the snow bank. No one was injured, but the car was definitely stuck. As I fumbled to get my frozen fingers out of the mitten cuffs to help push, three others were already on their way to do so. I watched as I appoached - the car got out and the driver safely drove on his way. 

That's when I thought:

Sweet little Leah helps so many people out of ruts. I don't even know how she does it, but she does. 

The analogies went on and on. I'm not kidding. For the next 4.5 miles I thought of so many circumstances that I had been annoyed about that Leah deals with on a daily basis - my clothing had shifted and I couldn't fix it. Something got in my shoe. I was hungry (she only gets to eat when others can help her). I was tired (her seizure medications make her even more tired!). I was cold (she has horrible circulation). And on and on and on. 

If I hit an icy patch, I thought of Leah. When my nose dripped, I thought of Leah. When my fingers hurt, I thought of Leah. When I felt like I was too tired to run up the hill, I thought of Leah. When a song came on that made me smile, I thought of Leah. When I got a burst of energy, I thought of Leah. And as I turned the corner into my neighborhood, thinking of Leah, I was a mess. A sobbing mess. I got myself under control by the time I reached my house, but my perspective had definitely changed. 

Some days are hard. Some days are really hard. Some are hard mentally. Some physically. Some emotionally. But you would never know it by looking at Leah. She is so happy and easy going and patient and hard working. She helps me out of so many ruts each day. She helps me to find the strength to run up the hills. She gives me bursts of energy and makes me smile. And she is teaching me the value of hard work and patience and happiness.

So yes, running 9 miles (or 27) in a 14 degree blizzard wasn't necessarily easy and it definitely wasn't fun. Rett syndrome isn't easy and it definitely isn't fun. But I have a pretty good coach. And if she can get me through these training runs, I have full confidence that she can get me through whatever Rett syndrome throws our way. 

When I reached my porch, I knocked on the door (with my elbow - my wrist was too frozen), had Ryan take this picture (because today is a day I want to remember) and then immediately hugged my little coach. Snot, tears, frozen fingers and all.


B said...

Loved this post.

Emily said...

such a poignant post for me...your insights as the mom of leah (what she teaches really) are wonderful to behold!

Michelle said...

Bawling. Again. You're amazing. And do is your little coach