As a person who suffers from chronic pain, running is not only helpful for the pain, but it helps me to feel that I am not a helpless victim. About 15 years ago, when I first started experiencing pain in my neck, my doctor ordered an x-ray. He was incredulous when he saw the extent of the damage to my spine, and, of course, asked what the hell happened to my back. He was also a recovering alcoholic and a friend, so we just looked at each other, and then he realized that he knew. The things that alcoholics do: Too many car accidents to count; One or two abusive husbands; Falls that I don't even remember. My doctor gravely told me that I would be in pain for the rest of my life. Well, I knew that.
I had surgery on my cervical spine in 1999. I have three fused vertebrae, bone grafts, titanium rods. My range of motion is virtually non-existent. A year later I was back in my doctor's office (a different doctor than my friend) complaining of pain lower down my spine. He point blank told me that I already had one failed back surgery and that I needed to figure out my own solution because their solution was more surgery. That was an eye-opener. I went and got a gym membership and started working out.
In 2003, I started running. I had run when I was young, but was later told I would never run again because of the back problems. I started running by walking one mile up a hill, turning around and running for 5 minutes - downhill. I thought I would die. But after a while, it became 10 minutes. Then I knew if I could run for 10 minutes, I could run a mile. I started running a mile every other morning. Then it became a mile and a half. Then I signed up for a triathlon! Somehow I got up to 3.1 miles. 2 years ago, I started experimenting with distance running. I actually ran my first half-marathon at the age of 55. With that came the feeling that I could do anything! I tried training for a marathon last year, but had to abandon that dream.
I am now training for a half-marathon in January. I have struggled with this. I am happy to say that I actually want to go out and run this morning. It is almost 50 degrees, so I am wearing only tights and a t-shirt. No hat, no gloves, no layers. And I have that wonderful feeling of anticipation of the run. No dread.
I am grateful that I have such a wonderful life today. By the Grace of God and the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I am able to be a sober woman. That means I can make decisions and take action and live a good life. I am not a victim of my history.