I've exercised most of my life. And for a good part of that time I've run off and on... in between pregnancies... when it wasn't too cold... or too hot.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, exercise became even more important to my life. It has been one of the biggest reasons I am able to control my blood sugar drug free, at least for the most part. So I started running for my health.
Since Addison was born my arthritis has progressed at an alarming rate. I have not had a day without pain in more than a year. Repeated trips to specialists offer me only two choices, take medication every day for the rest of my life (which is known to cause heart disease and/or stroke) or surgery to fuse my bones at the most affected joints, several of which are in my feet. This might relieve the pain but would definitely make it impossible for me to run any more. Neither option seemed reasonable to me. As a diabetic I am already at high risk for heart disease and stroke. And I intend to be standing, walking, and even running on these legs and feet for a lot of years yet.
It is hard to admit I might be at a place where I can't do everything I once did. Especially, because I am young. Just because I have the joints of a 70 year old doesn't mean I am 70, you know. It was also hard to watch my family continue to do what I love while I sat on the sidelines. And it was difficult to watch them let up on their training without me out there on the road pushing them along.
But on the other hand, we've had a very cold winter. And there were days in December and January I kissed the family as they headed out the door and I was kind of happy I could stay bundled up inside cooking something warm and nourishing for when they returned.
That was then. Then February rolled around and the first ever Down Syndrome race with our local advocacy group. Everyone could not wait to sign up to join in this event on Pennsylvania Avenue to support their brother and all those affected by Down Syndrome. And so I dug out my favorite pair of Asics and tied them on.
The coldest and snowiest winter Maryland has seen in some time.
And to be honest, I am not enjoying it. When my feet hit the frozen pavement the pain shoots through my entire body right up to my jaw. It hurts. And as an asthmatic it feels like drowning to run in sub freezing temperatures. Seriously, running in good conditions is difficult and takes a lot of training time to bring my lungs up to speed. If I had adequate time to prepare for this race I would add 1 minute or a tenth of a mile at a time to expand my lung capacity. But we only have 6 weeks for training. So I went from 0 running in November, December and January to running 2.5 miles (one mile to go...) on days when there was 18 inches of snow and the temps never got above 17 degrees. When I quit last fall I was happily running 5 miles a day so starting back at ground zero is more than a little discouraging. Especially, because I am just covering the distance. My time STINKS!
Every night when I roll over in bed and feel the ache through my joints I wonder why am I doing this???? And everyday when I am tying on my shoes and trying to get myself motivated to head out in the freezing temperatures I ask myself, and anyone else who happens to be around, "WHY ARE WE DOING THIS???" And they always say, "We are doing it for Addison."
And this is what occupies my mind as I plug Matt Hammit into my ear buds and trudge up and down these ridiculous hills surrounding our house. And by the way if we ever move I am choosing a flat neighborhood.
Even though, I keep asking this question I knew the answer long before we ever started this particular endeavor. I've known it since Addison was born.
First, we run because there are still people out there who believe Down Syndrome is an acceptable reason to take the life of unborn babies. When we are in our nation's capital we want those in the position to change this horrible idea to know there are voters who feel differently. We want them to see babies, children and adults with down syndrome who are living rich and full lives standing up and speaking out for themselves. Before we ever knew he had down syndrome, we prayed for Addison's life to make a difference. This is one way we are helping our boy strive for God's will in his life.
But that's not all. I run because Addison may need us far longer than our other children. And, while we are not ancient, the fact is we are older than most people with an infant in the house. Allen and I want to be healthy and strong for every possible moment of Addison's life. We want to have the strength to not only watch him run on the Mall but also to run alongside of him one day. That will never be possible if I sit today.
Probably the biggest reason I run is this. IT IS HARD! Right now I have to endure for every single step. Every hill is an enormous struggle. Sometimes I have to count off every tenth of a mile thinking just a few more steps... and a few more. And that's what Addison's life is about. IT IS HARD! He has had to work for everything. And he always will. He had to fight to cry. Fight to eat. Fight to lift his head. He had to work for months just to roll over and sit up. Things other babies do with little to no effort. And not just Addison. But all those kids with down syndrome. Have you ever seen a baby turn blue because the effort of getting a toy uses up too much of their limited oxygen supply? It stops and makes you think about how easy we really have it. It makes you focus on all we take for granted in our lives.
That's why I run. I run to remind myself Addison is working every moment of every day to just do the normal every day baby things. He will work every moment of every day to do the normal kid things. And the normal grown up things. I run so I will never forget those things we take for granted now were huge obstacles for our guy. I run so I can always understand where he is. So I can be his biggest encouragement and cheerleader.
Once I ran for fun. Once I ran for health. But for the rest of my days I will run for Henry.