“What if you don’t finish?”
My brow furrowed and my eyes squinted, as I mulled the question over in my head… Hmmm. What happens if I don’t finish the marathon? I didn’t know how to respond; I drew a blank.
Noticing my dumb-founded expression, my inquisitor quickly backtracked, thinking they’d deeply offended me. Re-clarifying, they said, “Oh wait, no, it’s not that I don’t think you’ll finish. I’m just saying, with the fundraising… there’s a lot of pressure on you to finish.”
Fair enough. Yet strangely, I didn’t feel any pressure about finishing versus not finishing. Frankly, I’d never given it much thought. In the three months I’ve been training, I’ve never once pictured myself crossing the finish line. Likewise, I’ve never imagined myself not crossing the finish line. How could this be?
Looking back on it now, my decision to run the Boston Marathon for narcolepsy was one of the most thoughtless decisions I’ve ever made.
There are some decisions we take very seriously. We weigh the pros and cons. We think through worst and best-case scenarios. We belabor the main points over and over in our heads. We get advice from our friends and family. And hopefully, in the end, we make choices we can live with.
Then, there are other decisions we make without thinking. Impulse purchases and last-minute choices… These are often the decisions we regret the most; the times we hope we kept the receipt and pray for a forgiving return policy. Was running the marathon just a whimsical folly I’d later regret?
There are plenty of reasons why I should have said no to this opportunity. Intense exercise makes me tired – I’m already tired enough as is, why make life harder on myself? Running could be dangerous with my cataplexy – I could have muscle weakness while running and possibly fall and injure myself. My medications are incredibly dehydrating – I already struggle to stay hydrated, never mind hydrating for long-distance runs.
And narcolepsy aside – I have a history of tendonitis in my knees which could disrupt or end my training if I’m not careful. These are the most obvious factors weighing against my decision. I’m sure I could think of more, but I’ll spare you.
Believe me, I take the issues listed above very seriously. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s all “mind over matter.” It’s not. My narcolepsy and tendonitis are huge considerations in my training. There are days I’m scheduled to run that I decide not to because of my cataplexy. To ward off dehydration, I consume such copious amounts of lemon-lime Gatorade that I think I deserve official Gatorade sponsorship. To combat my tendonitis, I spend more time stretching than I do running and most nights, I can be found lying with legs elevated and ice-packs on both my knees.
(I realize that I haven’t blogged much about these complications, subconsciously glossing over the difficulties to focus more on the fun and positive parts of this journey. I hope to open up a bit more in the months ahead to give a more honest portrayal of this experience.)
For now, what I mean to say is – I don’t think I’m invincible. I’m not Superwoman, Bat Girl, Catwoman or any other supernatural heroine. I know that “health” is not the all-inclusive guaranteed full-package deal it sometimes appears to be. Narcolepsy has taught me to listen to my body and respect its boundaries. I know I am fragile, twistable, breakable… I am 100% fallible.
And yet, when asked if I’d like to run the Boston Marathon for Wake Up Narcolepsy, I said yes in a heartbeat.
Maybe there are some decisions that are beyond thought, beyond logic, beyond science, and beyond judgment – good or bad. Decisions that others can’t help us make… Things we must do because if we didn’t at least try, we’d only be cheating ourselves.
There will always be complications and there will sometimes be failures. I don’t know if I’ll cross the finish line in Copley Square on April 19th, 2010. At this point, I have no reason to believe that I won’t, but the future is ultimately out of my hands.
The way I see it – I could either sit around thinking about the possibilities: the chances of something going wrong, the chances of everything going right… the what ifs and maybes… OR, I could stand up, start running, and see where it takes me. I choose to run.