Monday, September 20, 2010

Running Scared: Let The Cursing And The Pain Begin

Joshland WARNING: I curse a lot in this post. It's how I felt while I was writing. I am who I am and I don't apologize for it. I'm just being honest.

Over the past few weeks, I've been training for a 5K. I didn't mention it to many people because I did this on a whim and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to finish what I started. That I would let my friends and family down. Most of all....that I would let myself down.

To be honest, I have a few things going against me:

1. We all know about the effects cystic fibrosis and asthma have on the lungs. If this is your first time visiting W2J, go to the "CF INFO AND RELATED SITES" tab at the top of the page. FYI - CF and asthma make running hard, but the benefits of exercise for the CF Community have been shown time and time again, so I wanted to try. Let's move on, shall we?

2. Thanks to CF I'm not able to fully absorb the nutrients in my food. Therefore, I am severely vitamin deficient. In fact, my Vitamin D levels are untraceable on a blood test. It doesn't matter the amount of the supplement or way it's administered. For those keeping track at home, Vitamin D is the vitamin that helps strengthen and sustain your bones. My doctor and I worry that high impact running/training over even a short period of time could cause some major issues with my legs including bone fractures, sprains, etc. That sounds neat, huh?

3. What many of you don't know is that I have extremely frustrating case of spastic diplegia which is a form of cerebral palsy. There are cognitive and physical challenges that come with this issue. When it comes to running, my focus is more on the physical aspects.

This definition was taken from Google:

Spastic diplegia is a form of cerebral palsy (CP) that is a neuromuscular condition of hypertonia and spasticity in the muscles of the lower extremities of the human body, usually those of the legs, hip, and pelvis.

You see, when "Joe and Jane Average" use their muscles, lactic acid builds up over the course of exertion, causing spasms, stiffness, and pain. This is how my right leg feels every day. When I run, it amplifies the pain exponentially and slows me down a lot. I also sound like Long John Silver.

Step---CLOMP---Step---CLOMP when I walk.

when I run.

Despite these annoyances, I'm attempting to check off something on my "To-Do List". I hope I survive. The following is my abbreviated and sporadic "Run Journal" from the last few weeks running every other day:

Goal: To complete the Big Brothers, Big Sisters "Little Steps For Big Reasons" 5K Run (3.1 Miles) Without Stopping.

Obstacles: cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, asthma, and all the symptoms they entail.

Week 1:

I tried to complete 1.5 miles running around my neighborhood a few times. I barely got through a quarter mile without stopping to catch my breath. I started to think this was a stupid idea, but I still finished every run taking into account that I am out of shape and was running outside in oppressive humidity.

My disappointment was magnified during one of my first runs when my cairn terrier, Oscar, was trotting and barely panting the entire time. Meanwhile, I was at full running speed and sounding like a hyena that swallowed a noise maker. I almost got my arm pulled off when little Oscar saw a squirrel. We showed that squirrel who was boss and sacrificed my ankle in the process.

Going forward, I've decided there would be no more poochy running partners.

Week 2:

I thought it would be in my best interest to train inside on my mother's treadmill since the humidity outside was so thick you could make a broth out of it. This way, I could build up some stamina on the ol' windbags in a controlled environment. You know what? It worked. I ran 2.5 miles, only slowing down for a quarter of it. The next time I ran, I decided to test myself and try to run the whole race.


There was walking, coughing, and gasping involved, but I never stopped moving. I even ran the last .10 of the mile at a full sprint. At the end, I felt this sense of relief and pride. I could do it. I could actually finish this whole race without stopping. I shocked myself. My lungs were burning when I breathed in. I think it was because I was moving mucus that had not moved in ages. My right leg was not pleased either. For the rest of the day I was walking on a cement stump. It was numb and threatened to quit working with every jostle. But it was worth it. Kiss my ass, cerebral palsy. Kiss my scrawny, bony ass!

I had an additional accomplishment this week: I ran two miles while I was on vacation. I was pretty proud of myself for doing considering I was on vacation and had kinda whooped it up the night before. The discipline I learned from CF/ high school wrestling took over. Thank goodness for adversity teaching me to suck it up a little.

Joshland Note: Week 3 is missing because I was dealing with more important personal issues. I missed a few runs, but nothing significant.


My most discouraging run ever. This time it was my stomach causing the trouble. I should have been able to almost enjoy my run on a cool and crisp 55 degree day. Instead, I ran for the first mile with little labor, then all of the sudden it felt like tar was sloshing around in my stomach causing me sludge-filled pain. This wasn't normal "run through the pain" stomach ache either. It was debilitating. I felt like this was a test that I failed miserably. I finished 2 miles of my 3.1 mile run (most of it walking) and sat in the bathroom hunched over. What was I thinking running a 5K? I can finish this damn thing walking without laboring, but I'd love to finish this son-of-a-bitch race, you know...running. How on earth can I prepare for a race when my body is constantly plotting against me? I hate that I have no control over it. None. Fuck you CP. Fuck you CF. Fuck you body! I'll do it myself if you aren't going to cooperate.

Week 4:

Good runs and bad runs have filled this week. Chaos and stress have surrounded my days. I've discovered that getting into a rhythm has to do with your state of mind. When my thoughts are clouded with stress, it affects my run. I try to imagine all of the things that are good in my life and disregard the bad while I'm running, but it's really hard when there is nothing but your thoughts to keep you company. There is no getting around the fact that I will be in different physical shape when this is over. It's been great for my lungs (kind of), but detrimental to the rest of my body. My leg hurts with every step. My back aches and longs for heat. Then ice. Then heat again. My stomach does not enjoy having mucus sloshing around in it. It says:

"Stop running, you asshole! Go back to docile things like movies and writing. Let me stew in this green thickness while you soothe my pain with food, Mucomyst, and other such treats."

I'm tempted to quit, but then I think of how disappointed I would be in myself if I quit now. I've been training for weeks and I owe it to myself to see this through. My family and friends motivate me and I'm doing this for them and for you readers, but ultimately it's about me. Others can support and encourage me all they want and I appreciate it, but if I don't go out and do the leg work myself, it doesn't mean a damn thing. I'm doing this so I can say:

"I FINISHED A 5K! It wasn't pretty, but I finished it and I am proud of that!"

Be proud of who you are. If your biggest obstacle during the day is to go up a flight of four stairs, then take it one damn step at a time. When you get to the top say:

"I FINISHED A FLIGHT OF STAIRS! It wasn't pretty, but I finished it and I am proud of that!"

Because damn it, you just did something awesome. I will never forget looking out my window and watching Angela struggle to make it the end of the driveway to get the mail. When she made it back into the house she'd be wheezing, but she'd be so proud of herself. I kinda get it, sister. It's not even in the same stratosphere as what you went through, but I kinda get it. Maybe.

Focus on the little victories. Do it for yourself as well as for the ones you love.

Week 5:

I've read and heard the stories about my friends and strangers who have run multiple half marathons. I secretly wish that I could be them. I wish I could be my friend who finished their first IRONMAN, but wished they had posted a better time. Meanwhile, I take almost an hour to run/hobble through 3.1 miles. I run as fast as some people walk for goodness sake! I was simply frustrated with my runs the last few weeks. But then, something amazing happened...

During an evening run, I was a part of something that I can only describe as a "cinematic moment". Any attempt to recreate it will pale in comparison to living it, but I'll do my best for you:

So I'm running/huffing/puffing/hobbling on a trail by my house. I've decided to shorten my runs to conserve my legs. Instead, I've added short sprints for 30-45 seconds into my workout. This made my run more intense and cough-inducing than normal. The crud that's been coming out of me is the most disgusting stuff ever I've ever seen. It looks like melted chocolate with strips of broccoli in it.

Joshland Note: I'll give you moment to visualize that and dry heave if needed.


Welcome back! :-)

As I said, I was struggling to keep up the pace. To be honest, I was struggling to move. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a mother and her two girls riding up the trail on their bikes. They were closing in fast, so I gathered what little composure I had left and started trotting to save face. "Mom" was purposely trailing behind while the two little ones - one wobbling along on two wheels the other plugging along on training wheels - were hot on my gimpy heels.

The little sister on training wheels started riding next to me, so I kept pace with her and her toothy grin. Big sister saw this and sped up to ride with me. She was challenging me to keep up with her. I got this big smile on my face and said to her "Okay "Wheels", let's see what you've got!" Then, I started full on sprinting as fast I could. Big sister sped right up next to me and was smiling the whole time. Now, I don't know if it was a "this guy is slow as slow as a turtle" smile or a "this guy is pretty cool" smile, but it doesn't really matter. All I knew was that I sprinted as fast as I could for about 45 seconds until I started having an asthma attack and had to slow down. The girls sped off and their mother mouthed the words "thank you" as she passed me.

I finished my 2 mile run coughing and hacking, but with a little peace of mind. This was a sign that I was doing a good job. Maybe those little girls were like the kids I was running for. The "Little Brothers and Sisters" who need the money I am raising for their programs. The little CF kids that see the old dude with CF, cerebral palsy, and asthma trying his best to live his life. Most of all, I'm very aware of the fact that many people - CF or not - reading this would give anything to even attempt what I am doing. Know that you are with me. Every single one of you.

Nearing the End

I nearly ran the full 5K today, but I stopped a few times because my leg has had enough. I've also realized that running in the elements is much harder on the lungs than running on the treadmill. I've got two more training runs left. Both are scheduled for the morning at the same time as the race is supposed to start. That way, I can prepare myself for the "race day" conditions.

I've got less than a week left before the run and I'm very scared. I'm scared my body will break. I can feel my back and legs ache when I walk. I'm hobbling more than usual which is never a good sign. My right leg is in a constant state of numbness. My lungs hurt in a good and bad way. Broken blood vessels and tightness from the pollen-filled fall air are not good running partners. I've got mental stress that isn't helping matters either, but I can "oh poor me" all I want and it doesn't change what is happening in my life right now.

Bottom Line: Fear makes adrenaline run.

Through my fear, I will run/hobble my way to the finish. If my legs give out, then I'll drag myself with my arms. If my arms give out, then I'll go horizontal and roll my way across the finish line. I have to finish. It's on my list of stuff to do before my body says "No more, Josh". I don't care what my time is. I just want to finish.

I'll post pics and a short post later this weekend. Wish me luck!

If you'd like to donate to my run you can click on this link and donate whatever you'd like to. $1 or $1,000,000, it all goes to help kids believe in themselves. That's something I'm all for.

Peaceful and Fearful Things,



  1. So very proud of you dear friend....and thanks for the kick in the ass to get myself out there again! :) xoxo

  2. Thank you for continuing to inspire me to be a better person, my son. Just like with your sister, Angela, I'm encouraging you to "bring the mail in, please". I love you so much.

    Mom xoxox

  3. Dude, I've got to say, you're making INCREDIBLE progress! It took me something like 8 weeks to run a mile. YOU. DA. MAN.

    It also sounds like we'd be great running buddies. Pretty sure most people sleep walk faster than I "run".


  4. You are an animal! Rarrrrr! I'll bet you'll give that 5k a serious bitch-slap, and your time will be waaay better than you ever imagined. I just have a hunch.

    Molly Mogs

  5. you are inspiring. It makes me want to get up off my ars and do something. I'm lazy. I hate to run. But maybe I will take a small jog today...
    I would love to donate 1,000,000 but I don't have that... :) I have a quote painted on my wall above a photo. It's a john wayne quote.. "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway" That applies to our family 100% because of the whole saddle-rodeo thing, but I think you can apply it to your life too!

  6. Josh that is so awesome. You will fill so good about when you cross that finish line. Keep up all the hard work :)


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