(I originally posted this on my other site on April 27, 2018)
My oldest, truest friend in the world is running. I was only 5 years old when I first became enamored with the way it made my mind and body feel, and I was 9 when I knew I wanted to compete when I was older.
A few years later in middle school, I decided that kidney donation was on my ‘life list’ (as opposed to bucket list). I kept waiting until I knew I wanted a break from distance running.
In 2016 after racing the most miles I ever have in one year I knew it was time to move forward with the donation. I was burning out on running and wanted a great reason to take a break – recovering from donating an organ seemed like a great reason!
As I got ready for surgery I knew there was a chance (a small chance, but a chance), that my endurance could be forever compromised after donating. I figured that since donating my left kidney to a stranger felt so right in my bones that there was no way that the universe would screw me like that. Right?
Thank you universe for doing me a solid and taking care of me through this recovery process. In the last week, I have hit two major milestones with my running! I ran my longest run since surgery last weekend (15 miles), and last night I ran my fastest mile since surgery (7:05 pace in mile 6 of a 6-mile run). I am STOKED about these milestones!
The recovery process since donating almost a year ago has largely been great, but I will admit that running longer than a few miles has taken a long damn time to feel second nature again.
The day before surgery, I went out to run a few miles on my own. I was present, noticing how my lungs felt, how strong my body was from all my weightlifting and yoga, and savored every second of my ability to run. It was a goodbye of sorts, knowing that I would be doing my best to shuffle around the block just a few days later, but it felt right. Like deep down in my guts right. And whenever anything feels that right to me, I go for it every damn time.
Last night I was feeling exceptionally wiped out from my day and the mini-emotional roller coaster I was on regarding my upcoming move to Colorado, but I knew I needed to log some miles. There is something about nature and solitude that restore my soul and my mood to my naturally happy baseline. I parked next to Military Ridge, told myself that if I was still dragging a mile into it I would cut it short, and off I went.
As my legs loosened up, my head cleared, and the sun started to set in the sky I came alive. What was expected to be a slow, plodding run that I begrudgingly completed to mark it off my to-do list became an awakening of sorts. The day melted away once I hit the first mile marker, my pace dropped to sub 8 minute, and my soul soared! I ran west on Military Ridge and imagined me running strong like that on the trail system that will be in my backyard once I move to Colorado! I thought about my attempt at a tempo run back in October that buried me for two days after. I thought about how much I love my scars from my kidney donation. And I thought about how excited I am about everything that is coming my way over the upcoming weeks and months.
As the miles ticked by I was surprised every time my Garmin buzzed telling me I was still running in the 7’s, and with each mile, my boldness increased. I wanted to keep pushing, test my heart rate, and really see if I had any kind of ability to maintain that pace for a while, and maybe even run my last mile at my fastest pace of the day!
I passed people, remembering how good it felt to pick people off in races in the final miles. I listened to the quick pace of my foot strikes on the dirt and marveled at the fact that my heart rate and breath weren’t through the roof!
I pushed that last mile and was astonished to see that I ran it in a 7:05, finishing my 6 miler with an average pace of 7:54.
If I measure back too much, I don’t see this as being a big deal at all. After all, my best marathon in 2016 was run very close to that pace, but that’s irrelevant. This run marks the intention of just looking forward. Doing my best with my abilities right now, and not feeling the need to measure back to pre-surgery. This chapter of my running life is starting fresh, just like how my life is about to start fresh in less than two weeks with my move across the country.
Last night I truly felt like the pieces of my athleticism had come back together, I was whole, and I was ready for anything. Running while feeling strong is a sensation that trumps just about anything else for me, and to live it for a handful of miles was the most beautiful homecoming I could have imagined.