Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Promise Worth Keeping

Hooray! I have successfully finished my Six Mile July Challenge! That's right. I traveled by foot a minimum of six miles each day for an entire month. The grand total came to just over 190 miles. That's the equivalent of seven marathons, the distance between New York City and Baltimore, or the length of Massachusetts from east to west. As I wrote before, it was not always easy, but I've proved it is possible.

I underestimated how good it would feel when I finished this challenge, but as the digital girl voice in my Nike+ came through my headphones, telling me I had just completed a six mile run- the one that meant I had completed the challenge I began a month ago, I couldn't help but run faster, grinning as I completed the remaining half-mile that took me from the center of town toward home. Doing this, winning Earndit for July was more than a challenge. It was a promise.

Why? I think I have always had a competitive streak, but it runs deeper than that. Winning top points for Earndit this month was a promise, and I believe that the most important promises to keep are the ones we make with with ourselves. This promise thing isn't a new revelation for me. I have a history of making- and keeping- promises with myself.

When at 21 I was told I had the 'choice' of completing a year-long non-cycled chemotherapy regiment (the other choice was to wait and see if the cancer came back post-surgery. Not exactly a viable option!) I promised myself that if I started the program, I would finish it, knowing full well that only one in three people who started taking the drug actually completed the full year of treatment. twelve months later, I was in the minority as one of the finishers.

A week after I completed the treatment promise, I made another. I bought a membership at the YMCA and decided that I would never take my body's ability to do miraculous things for granted. After all, it had fought cancer, recovered from three surgeries all less than a month apart, and endured twelve months of toxic immunochemotherapy. If my body was capable of doing that, the least I could do was love it. I was never a runner before cancer, but somehow I tied running to loving and appreciating my body. Starting to run was a turning point for me. It marked the start of a life of living after cancer. That's why I believe that while treatment saved me from cancer, it was running that saved me from treatment. It's been nearly three years since I promised to honor my body, and I feel I have kept that promise.

When you take into account the scope of the previous promises I have undertaken, Six Mile July may seem slightly less impressive. But whatever your thoughts are, I encourage you to make promises with yourself. Start small and make a commitment you can keep. Take a walk after dinner each night this week. Eat more vegetables, join Earndit. But don't just do these things, make a change into a promise. Write it down, tell people, make yourself accountable. Start small and you might just be amazed by what can be accomplished when you keep a promise with the most influential person in your life- You.

Hope, Love, Run,
and thank you, Earndit :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The End is Near!

As the month I previously dubbed 'Six Mile July' draws to a close, I am within days of successfully completing the challenge I laid out for myself. And it has been a challenge! The feat of traveling a minimum of six miles each day on foot for an entire month has not been easy. In theory it’s not so daring, but as with anything, life gets in the way. There have been mild shin splints, 100+ degree heat indexes, a few full days of torrential downpours, a splinter in the foot, a death in the family, and most recently a farm-related infection in my compromised limb. Here's the full update:

In the midst of a heat wave- near ninety degrees when the sun went down- I found that running to the river, shedding my sneakers and lymphedema sleeve, and getting in the cool water for a few minutes made for a very refreshing and more comfortable run back home. This practice did, however, lead to the above mentioned splinter in the foot, but was well worth it in the heat!

On a few days when the weather was affected by the remnants of a hurricane, I ran at the gym until they kicked my off the treadmill- those darn 30 minute limits put a damper on my momentum- but I was not discouraged...I went to Walmart, the grocery store, and anywhere else that was not outside, and walked the rest of my miles.

On a day I worked at the farm from 7 AM to 10 AM, went home, showered, attended a funeral, and spent time with visiting family, I was forced to run after dark, something I hate because I fear tripping- even in well lit areas- and found myself praying for safety because I have watched way too many Law and Order and Criminal Minds episodes not to be on highest alert at all times, but especially at night, because that’s when the crazies come out.

That day on the farm resulted in an apparent infection in my hand, discovered the next morning when my finger was clearly in the early stages of cellulitis- a common infection for those like me, who have had lymphnodes removed as a result of cancer. Not to worry, I made a visit to the doctor, started some antibiotics, and the finger is well on its way to being normal again.

While it hasn’t been easy all the time, I am enjoying fulfilling the commitment I made to do this. When July is over, I will certainly let you know that I have completed the challenge and won my Earndit trophy for top earner in July on Earndit. There is no ‘if’ in that sentence. I will finish. 18 miles to go!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Halfway there!

Today marks the halfway point for my Six Mile July Challenge. It was a little painful at first, but I've learned over the last two weeks how to balance running with walking so that I am not crying from shin splints and runner's knee. Overall, I have found it to be easier than I expected. It's become part of my routine; just like I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I also do my 6 miles.

While I have no trouble finding a purpose for running, (speed, distance, conquering hills...) I find walking to be so slow, that after noting all the minute details of my neighbors' homes, I was lacking a purpose. In an effort to put some purpose behind my walks, I have done some berry picking. Conveniently, all the wild raspberries in and around my town have ripened over the last few weeks! My many adventures on various trails and back country roads have led to an extensive knowledge of prime berry-picking locations, and I've been enjoying these on cereal in the morning.

Aside from enriching my breakfast, all this walking and running has apparently made me a bit faster than I was before. This weekend I participated in a 5K race whose starting and finish line were within walking distance of my front door. I hoped I could run as fast as I did in the last race I ran, which took place six weeks ago. It was much hotter this weekend, but I still had high hopes. I pushed hard, and as I ran toward the finish line, the clock came into view- I couldn't believe what I saw. I finished the race in a personal best time- beating my time from six weeks ago by more than a minute! I can't describe how good that felt, the only thing that would have made me happier was winning the whole race- but I'm not that fast...yet.

Since the race, I've been thinking about a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago. When I told her about my Six Mile July Challenge, and asked her if she wanted to do a run with me along the piers in NYC where we were for the weekend, she commented that I've become one of 'those people', meaning one of those crazy runner people. Normally I don't appreciate being called crazy, but this was an ultimate compliment. Me? A real runner? Could it be that I have reached the level of not just being a person who runs, but one of those runner people who are defined by their love of running? Yes, I think I have. After all, I have been doing this for nearly three years. When I'm asked by anyone what I 'do', I start with my profession, and the next thing out of my mouth is, "I run."

I'm not sure at what level of dedication I get to call myself a real runner, but it is definitely a defining part of me. I love running more than I have loved any hobby, probably because running is more than a hobby, it's a way of life...Or at least that's what the crazy runner people are saying.

Hope. Love. Run!

Monday, July 5, 2010

CSA, Part Deux

I previously wrote about the CSA I joined, and how much I am enjoying the abundance of organic produce I receive each week. I have since begun to truly get to know where my food is coming from (and how it's grown) because I have begun to fulfill my work-share obligation.

Twice a week I strap on my overalls, pull on my gloves, and go to the farm for three hours to do whatever the farmer asks. I am continually awed by how much I am learning on each trip to the farm. But I am even more impressed by the vast amount of produce that comes from a seemingly small plot of land, a few horses, and one man's know-how. All the work on 'my farm' is done by hand or with old-fashioned tools and equipment that are purchased from the Amish in Pennsylvania. Yes, people actually do farm successfully without combines, pesticides, or migrant workers! It is an amazing feeling to be a part of something like this. The sense of community is fascinating and inspiring, that's why I can't encourage people enough to join a CSA.

Here's what I've been up to down on the farm...

My work experience started last Monday morning with a quick tour of the farm by owner and expert farmer, Charles. by the time he was done showing me around, his hired farmhand, a college student, arrived and Charles sent us to weed potatoes. Charles explained that the rows must be weeded so that the piece of equipment that digs up the potatoes can be used efficiently. It was about 9:30 by then and the temperature was quickly approaching the 90 degree mark. two-and-a-half hours later, I was covered in dirt, my hamstrings and back were killing me, and I had weeded one ridiculously long row of potatoes. I felt accomplished, but I was also hoping that every day I worked wouldn't be spent weeding potatoes!

I returned at the end of the week on a harvest day. I met other work-sharers and together we picked from the fields, and bagged each vegetable into the allotted number of shares. After that Charles gave us assignments; mine was to hoe the weeds from a row of celery. While we worked, I got to know some of the other work-share members and watched as Charles turned over some soil using an ancient piece of farm equipment and a Clydesdale horse named Pickle.

Work on the farm isn't easy, but it is turning out to be as rewarding as I hoped it would be. I just hope I don't have to go back to weed the potatoes any time soon!

Hope, Love, FARM.