It was while driving in the dark pierced by the two beams of light from the front of my car I realized there were 100‘s of floating yellow beacons all around me. Forest,Ohio is primarily a rural farm land with corn on one side and beans on another at any given stretch.
This was where my first 5k occurred when I was around 17. Invincible and all knowing as only teenagers can be. It is also where I completed my second one on Friday night July 10th, 2015. Three months after a first heart attack. A week before graduating from Grant Cardiac Rehab.
Running does not come naturally for me. I revisited that fact every time I laced up cheap shoes off and on through my 20‘s & 30‘s. It was the pain in my shins and feet, no doubt from bad shoes and improper form/pace, where a half mile into it I’d bail and go back to the free weights for a workout.
Three months in cardiac rehab will change a persons outlook on exercise. Cardiovascular work. Target heart rate. Effort level. MET and Wattage. While the entry fee to this new club of folks who are surviving any number of various forms of heart disease is a little steep … it became the place where I learned to look at things very differently.
I think of this while running at dawn on the three bridges over Scioto River with the City as a backdrop. While icing my knee the day after as my late-mid ‘40‘s body gets stronger … slowly. While running the “Tree Town Trot” in Forest; a three mile loop on a road flanked by corn fields. Listening to my feet hit the ground, breathing steady… thankful to have the experience. It’s both a practical application of what I learned, mixed with a sense of fun, and a little bit of gratitude for … well everything. Not “heroic” or in any way He-Man-Esque. Rather more in tune toward being self aware of that fluid line between our strength and limit as we constantly move through time during the course of our lives. It’s our unique evolution from birth to death… mine happens to involve running at the moment.
Thinking back on it, there have been times during the past three months where either on a bike or in running shoes where I’d catch myself in a wave of emotion while the headset was booming rhythm steadily into my ears. More than once I caught myself with misty eyes from a couple stray tears. Not an all out weep in the middle of the gym mind you. Something I knew was there in the background but not yet fully realized. I suspect it was part of the grief process. Embracing a big change while working at not letting it define you is no trivial endeavor. Working within your limits and redefining ones self in as healthy a way as you have the ability to do in that moment is, however, good work.
A serious health event can provide much time for reflection on our various choices. Of course sometimes we can live the cleanest of lives and suddenly find yourself being told that the “Troponin test came back positive.” Some keep smoking, drinking too much, eating packaged foods, drinking Diet Coke or coffee by the gallon, burning the candle too hotly or whatever habits more than a few of us find ourselves adopting to cope with life.
It was early on in the cardiac rehab track when I met a guy in his early ‘50‘s who was having difficulty healing from open heart surgery one year past. I was a initially surprised when he went out to smoke a cigarette outside of the facility where we were talking. That was his choice. Something that hopefully makes him happy. Regrettably not something with a positive impact on his recovery or future health. None of these choices offer any guarantees. However I’m finding mine involve running, eating a mostly plant based diet and working toward (really working on this following point) finding an actual work-life-balance. It’s the stuff we have in our toolkit that we can employee. With luck, it will be the right combination of choices, like a key in a lock, that help us live stronger lives.
It’s in every run, swim, bike ride, lifting or Yoga session, family get together, dinner with friends, evening with my husband, work deadline, book or news paper read that I find something truly wonderful. That’s what I thought about while watching the fireflies on a Summer night flanked by cornfields in the dark. To me they were reminders of past experiences floating and glowing in the dark like memories in our heads. Memories of things both recent and distant which illuminate our paths like life itself.