Eleven years ago this week on Patriots Day, I was at the starting line of the Boston marathon getting ready to run my third (of seven) marathons, that I would complete in just over 4 1/2 hours. Today, I am six days out from back surgery and took my first solo walk in the neighborhood. At today’s pace, the marathon would take me 19 hours to complete.

I’ve been running since I quit smoking over 20 years ago. I first ran for weight control. I hated it for 2 years, but persisted. At that point I met a neighbor who also ran, and I joined her early morning group of women. Running then became a social event (at 5:30am!) and a group therapy session. Something I not only enjoyed, but looked forward to. And rarely missed, no matter the weather.

For the last three years, I have been dealing with back pain.  At times it has prohibited me from running. I became a solitary runner again, because I never knew how I was going to feel first thing in the morning. And my group got faster as I got slower.

Despite being sidelined from an activity that I love, it did not stop me. With the help of some successful steroid injections, I continued to walk and swim while I waited to have surgery, 3 months! In that time, I kept thinking about when I would return to running. I’ve been told no more marathons, and ideally I should consider something lower impact. But my surgeon did give me approval to run again. Short distances–less than 5 miles–a few times/week. It’s been my dangling carrot. “Walking and swimming will hold me over, keep me fit, until I can run again”.

In the last 3 months, I’ve been grieving…and planning. The loss of my emotional, social, and health maintenance outlet has been very difficult. For me, nothing quite compares to getting outside to work out. And I miss my friends. The conversations that occur during a run with a group of women are not to be believed, and cannot be replicated in another setting. And the support that we provided each other through divorce, cancer, the death of a spouse, sibling, and parents, not to mention daily life, has kept us all from the brink at one time or another.

During my walk alone today, I had time to think. As slow as I am, I am SO grateful to be moving at all. Would it be the end of the world if I didn’t run again? At one time I would have screamed “YES”! Today, I’m not so sure. I would have to find something to help keep my weight down and the crazy away–both a difficult task!  I’m hopeful I will be running again, and I’m going to do the work to get strong. But if it doesn’t work out that way, I’ll have to figure it out. And either way, I’ll be ok.

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