One week from tomorrow I will be toeing the line of a 50-mile trail race. Last time I did a 50 miler I had two kidneys. This time I have one.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with my story, I donated a kidney to a stranger just over a year ago. I was an avid runner before that and had every intention to be an avid runner after my recovery as well. There was a surprising lack of other athletes telling their kidney donation stories – I had found two people that had run marathons. One was a woman on a Ted Talk, and another was a guy on a kidney donor mentor registry that said he ran a marathon on his profile but never actually got back to me. That’s all I had for donor athlete examples.
And that’s why I want to share my 50 miler experience with people. To show it’s possible. And hopefully even pretty enjoyable.
I am doing some things differently in training for this as compared to the 50 miler I ran exactly two years ago.
I leveled up my hydration system. If I get dehydrated out there, it puts a significant strain on my remaining kidney, so I take measures to make sure I never run out of water on training runs. I bought the Orange Mud Endurance Pack 4L – V 2.0 which holds 2 liters of water – a big increase from my previous system that held just 24 ounces! Both packs were really comfortable, but knowing I always have extra with me makes me more relaxed out there. I can just reach back and touch the bottom of the pack to get a good feel for how much I have left. I always have Tailwind Nutrition in my water in my pack so I’m confident I’m getting the electrolytes and calories I need.
I have a different mental approach to the race. Generally, I can get pretty intense, I like to push pretty hard, I’ll kill myself to finish strong every time and don’t consider it a good effort if I’m not red-lining it for at least a while on the race course. But that would be stupid right now.
Instead, I’m looking at my 50 miler as something I’ll run conservatively, and focus on enjoyment and hopefully pretty even splits. I want this event to be a success story that I can share, not a cautionary tale.
Race strategy is also different as far as my planned execution is concerned. Hydration and nutrition are a priority for me, as well as treating my body respectfully out there. I plan to walk for four minutes out of every hour – one minute out of every fifteen minutes. When I take a walk break on the 15 and 45-minute marks of each hour, my primary focus is to drink as much as I can. When I walk for a minute at the top of the hour and at the 30-minute mark I take solid food and drink a bunch. I tested this out on my 6-hour run a few weeks ago and it worked incredibly well. I wasn’t at all dehydrated when I finished, my energy level stayed very consistent, and time flew by since I was breaking it into so many bit sized chunks.
I won’t be taking any Ibuprofen. That’s something that I’m not supposed to take anymore since it’s so hard on your kidneys, and I follow that advice to the letter. I’ll have a couple Tylenol on hand, but without the Ibuprofen I know I’ll have a certain amount of discomfort that I’ll just have to live with.
I have a couple kidney donor friends that will be cheering on the race course for me, and I can’t help but think that knowing these other people who are connected to my story will help pull me towards the finish line.
Another special aspect of my cheering section is that a friend who is about to donate her kidney to start a donor chain on November 6th will be there too! She’s an athlete and really values her health and fitness, so I hope this event of mine gives her comfort of knowing that you can continue to be an athlete after kidney donation.
It feels almost surreal that I’m about to do this 50-mile race that to me, signifies that I’m just as fit and strong as I was with two kidneys. I still haven’t heard of another living donor that has attempted a 50 miler, so I may very well be the first. I hope that my efforts on the 29th of this month open a door of possibility to other potential donors. Donating a kidney doesn’t mean you have to hang up your racing shoes. It doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself. It does mean that you need to take extra care and really stick to a game plan.
On training runs, I imagine crossing the finish line smiling and tired. I see my incredibly supportive boyfriend there cheering for me, and next to him is my recipient Diana and her husband Butch. Diana who can live the life she has wanted with her new found health, with my left kidney working away inside her. Her husband Butch also smiling and celebrating, knowing that his wife was saved, his life was changed through becoming a donor to a stranger himself, and joy in knowing the woman who saved his wife is still living her best life, on purpose, and sharing it with the world in hopes of inspiring even more positive change.