“Do this race with me,” she said.
“It will be fun,” she said.
“We can bond over it,” she said.
I said, “You’re NUTS!” And, then I signed up.
I signed up for a 500K race. That’s not a typo. For those of you scrambling…heading to Google to do the math conversion, let me save you the trouble. It’s 314 miles. The race starts at Dorena Landing, MO and ends at Castle Rock, GA. We have 10 days to complete it, but she wants to finish it in 8. Why? Because she did it in 9 last year. That’s right, my sister, Pam, completed the Last Annual Vol State (LAVS) last year. She was crewed. A friend of hers followed her along the race route with nutrition, foot care products, changes of clothing, ice, etc. Guess what my sister wants to do this year?
We’re SCREWED. Figuratively and literally.
We’re running this race, and I use the term ‘running’ lightly, without a crew. We’ll be completely self-reliant. If we can’t carry it on our backs or find it along the race route, we’re out of luck.
The weather will be hot and humid. We’ll walk and rest during the heat of the day and jog at night. Saunter. We’ll be sauntering. I’m afraid her definition of saunter and mine might be a little different. She’s fit and trim. I’m still overweight and have arthritis in my knees. She swears she won’t leave me behind. I’m counting on her. And yet, I think we’ll be counting on each other a lot during this race. Me more than her. It’s not that I don’t think I bring any value to this dynamic duo, but she’s more experienced, and. And. Or maybe, but…
I watched her progress last year as she ran the race. It was fun. It was funny. I cheered her on from 1000s of miles away as her friend went live on Facebook. She did little dances as she hit major milestones. I laughed as she ate a breakfast while soaking in a tub in a hotel room because she needed extra calories, but also needed to take care of her aching muscles. I winced as she took a pit stop to dump ice down her shirt and in her shorts to cool off, and then sprinted off again with a bag of ice tied to her head.
Afterward she told me of the things I didn’t think about. And, I laughed some more.
She popped a squat frequently along the side the road because she was in the middle of nowhere and when you gotta go you gotta go. She hunkered down under a bridge during a tornado warning and slept in a cemetery at night when she was nowhere near a hotel room. Her friend, was in the next town, sleeping in a comfy bed, but Pam didn’t make it that far on that particular night and needed a few hours of sleep. That sounds fun in a creepy, Halloween sort of way. Stories that not many people can tell. Stories that she can tell and that maybe I can tell, except…
Now. Now, it’s not so funny because now this is going to be my life for 8-10 days.
And, although my depression may not be at play during this race, my PTSD certainly will be. Popping a squat outside where other people might see? Sleeping outside with no protection. My home is deadbolted and an alarm set every night. Now, I’ll have to sleep outside. I’ve only been camping once in my adult life – there’s a reason for that.
This is going to be a test. Not just a test of endurance. Stamina. Relationship. Sheer will. PTSD.
It’s going to be a test of my PTSD symptoms and my coping skills.
Here’s the thing – even as a rape survivor who was both raped and had an attempted rape at night, I’m not afraid of the dark. I used to run at night all the time. I used to run at midnight. I used to run in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep. At first I did it because I was embarrassed for anyone to see me…my overweight, jiggling body, running. Then, I liked the solitude. The quiet. The stillness. I liked the shadows.
I was like a child – if I couldn’t see then I couldn’t be seen. Therefore, I wasn’t afraid of what might be lurking in those shadows. I took a flashlight with me so I could see 10 feet in front of me. But it wasn’t until a combination of things that occurred that I finally started running in the daylight hours. And, it wasn’t because I had lost enough weight that I was no longer jiggling.
No. That wasn’t it.
My husband was frantic every time I walked outside in the pitch-black vortex. Afraid I’d be swallowed up, never to be seen from or heard from again. I think that’s realistic.
I think that now.
It wasn’t until one winter night, not all too late, maybe 9:00 PM, that I was running on the bike path and heard a noise behind me. It didn’t stop. It revved up and then faded. It revved up again and then faded again. It was definitely coming from the path. And, it was definitely behind me. It sounded like a kid on a skateboard. Pushing off – going faster. Slowing down. Pushing off again.
I shined my light behind me without stopping my forward pace. Contorting my body. Nothing. Tried again. Nothing again. After several minutes and several light-shining, body-contorting moments, I turned around, took a stance, legs spread wide and braced for an attack – and I shined that pocket-sized flashlight straight ahead of me. It reflected off of something and then whoosh!
A man in a sports wheelchair was upon me.
It explained the revving and fading. He apologized. He hadn’t meant to startle me. He didn’t startle me. He scared the living daylights out of me. I told him so. I wish when I had shone my light, he had announced himself, but he hadn't.
He was returning from playing basketball at the local middle school and was on his way home. The bike path ran behind the middle school.
Someone else who either didn’t understand his vulnerable situation or didn’t care. Like me. I didn’t know which. It didn’t matter.
I jogged beside him and we chatted until we got to an intersection where he turned off the path and continued on the street. I turned around and made my way back home. I never saw him again. Not ever. Not ever ever.
It was enough to make me start running when the sun was shining.
I HAVE TO
Now, I'll have to run in the dark to maintain my strength.
Now, I'll have to sleep outside to regain my strength.
Possibly for 10 days.
I can do this.
I can do this.
I can do this.
I can do this.
I think I have to do this.