Guest Post: Heather’s journey from lupus to 5k

I recently ran a 5k on February 17th in Nashville, Tennessee.  My niece Kayla challenged me to share my journey on her blog so here I go.

It all really started back several years when my niece decided to change her lifestyle.  It was like she took off running one day and never stopped.  Of course, as an aunt, I supported her wholeheartedly but from afar, kind of removed from what she was really doing.  I knew she was training for races and marathons.  She was making lifestyle changes with her eating habits, getting up early to run, and dedicating herself to reaching her goals.

None of it really sunk in until I attended her first full marathon she was running for St. Jude.  I showed up in the big city where thousands (I mean thousands) of runners showed up to do what they trained so long to do.  The energy was palpable to say the least.  Everyone looked elite to me.  I was wowed!  Runners of all sizes, shapes, colors, ages, and nationalities.  I wanted to be one of them right then and there.  I left there asking myself, “What are you doing with your life Heather?”  It answered back pretty quickly, “Nothing!”

After Kayla crossed the finish line and my heart swelled with so much pride, I decided I wanted to do what she did!  Not a full marathon of course but I wanted to start running.  I returned home and was so scared to tell anyone what I wanted to do.  Deep down inside I wasn’t so sure I could do it.  I didn’t want to tell anyone just in case I failed from the get go.  See, I had turned 50, survived stage one cancer and been diagnosed with Lupus all within the past 2 1/2 years. I let my diagnosis rule my life for two years.  I hurt all over my body.  Most days it hurts to even get up from where I’m sitting or laying.  My joints scream quietly from inside where no one can hear them.  On the outside, I look like a normal functioning individual but on the inside my body  attacks itself and wreaks all kinds of havoc.

I first told my daughter Madison about my crazy idea and ran it by her.  She was supportive from the beginning, believed I could do it and told me I was the only one who could make it happen when I was truly ready for it to happen.  I then called my niece a couple of days later and shared my goal with her.  I remember being super nervous.  She was fully in from the beginning.  The advice started pouring in from her.  She was a wellspring of information and support throughout the whole process.

My first step was to consult my doctor and get the go ahead to beat up my body more.  He was truly excited for me.  I remember him telling me at least a dozen times to take it slow.  So I took to the internet to find a training plan that worked for me specifically.  The plan I found started me out slow, it worked it’s way up gradually, it encouraged rest and recovery times, and most importantly it advised not training on consecutive days.  My body needed more down time in between.

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Next, I amassed a support team.  Everyone was so open to my goals.  My family was instantly behind me.  Friends at work were pulling for me.  But what really got me through were the people willing to train right alongside me.  They will never really know how much that kept me on my path to my endgame.  I mean they took time out of their schedules and weekends to sweat right next to me. In all kinds of inclement weather too.  All the while telling me “You got this!”  I started running around my neighborhood, then at my local civic center, and any greenway that was close to me.

I also quit drinking. This was huge.  I struggled with alcohol abuse for years.  It was my best and worst friend.  I knew I couldn’t train for a race and drink.  My body was already starting at a disadvantage.  Drinking would allow me so many more excuses not to reach my goal.  So I said bye to that relationship.

My last training day ended with a beautiful sunset, so beautiful, I took it as a sign everything was going to be just fine. I took it in with the ones who helped me train the most (Madison and Em) and knew my goal was waiting for me right around the corner.

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On the eve of race day I was so nervous.  I didn’t want to let anyone down but most of all I didn’t want to let myself down.  My support team was right there with me of course.  Then came race day.  My stomach was all nerves but I was actually calmer than I thought I would be.  I had my daughter and niece right by my side the entire time.  I was where I wanted to be.  I zoned out a bit while running.  My niece brought me back down when she told me I just ran an entire mile straight through.  I was so proud of myself.  I stayed focus on the route in front of me never forgetting the love that surrounded me.  My daughter ran out in front to make sure I didn’t trip over anything.  I was bummed at the one mountain (paved hill) I had to stop and walk in the middle of Nashville but I didn’t let it get to me.

Then my niece and daughter, with the biggest smiles ever, pointed at the finish line.  I couldn’t wait to get there.  All the times I had to push through the pain, all the calls and doubts my family had to get me through, all the afternoon training I had dedicated myself to was about to pay off.  I heard my family cheering me on from the sidelines and I think I pretty much floated across the finish line in a happy daze!!!  It was exciting!  I did it!!  I not only reached a goal, I had a plan and executed that plan with my own hard work.  What more can you ask for?

Does running a 5k change your whole life?  Probably not. It’s all the negative internal dialogue you stop listening to that changes your life.  It’s the realization you are the only thing in your way.  It’s setting a plan in motion that keeps you moving forward.  I have fallen in love with life and learned my family is the most important relationship I have.

My goals for the future are running a 5k comfortably without stopping.  I still plan to train every other day.  I’m going to start strength training also to get my body stronger for a 10k race.  I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me with kind words and encouragement.  Could I have done this without you?  No, I couldn’t have.  I love you all.

-Heather Kelly

Sacrifice.

Six days till we get in our little corral and nervously wait to cross the start line of our first marathon!!

It’s been six months of training which means six months of sacrifices! We thought we would share some of the things we gave up so we could make this goal a reality.

Kayla’s Sacrifices.

1. Alcohol

2. Sleep

3. Comfort

I didn’t give up alcohol for the entire six months. I would sacrifice drinking on Friday nights because I would have a long run, bright and early! I did give up alcohol in the last month though. I made a couple exceptions, like Thanksgiving! I thought it would be nice to cleanse out those toxins in the last month so I would feel extra healthy for the race. I made sure to keep drinks on hand besides water. I learned that there is a habit in drinking, just having that glass of wine in hand after work. If I dressed up a virgin drink after work, it was almost like I was satisfying that craving with just a fancy drink. I will definitely be thinking of the nice, cold brew I’ll treat myself to while running.

Training for a marathon while working a full time job is no joke! There were mornings I had to get up at 4 a.m. Sometimes I would be trying to beat the heat for a long run, others I would be trying to fit in a run before my work day started at 7 a.m. Usually with these early wake up calls would mean that I would be in bed by 8 p.m. asleep by 9. Now it’s almost like I can’t sleep past 7 a.m. and I really feel like it is a direct result of this crazy running lifestyle I developed.

Sacrificing comfort for me means that, at times, I was physically uncomfortable. Either having to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and make myself put my shoes on and get out the door. Or the aches and pains that your body goes through while training. Talk about getting up from sitting at work and every muscle in your body feels like it is protesting your movement! And of course, making yourself push yourself out of comfort zone while running. While I wasn’t able to get faster through training (damn hip!) I was able to push myself way beyond my limits. I remember when I could barely run three miles and in six days I will be running 26.2. So it may hurt and you may feel defeated at times, but push yourself, it’s worth it!

Sarah’s Sacrifices.

1. Excuses

2. Comfort

3. Giving up

I use to be good at making excuses. Then I became a runner! There are no excuses in running. December 2nd (date of the marathon) will come no matter how much training I have done. To make sure I was fully prepared for the marathon, I had to train, I had to run. No matter what life threw at me, I had to run. And if I absolutely had to skip a run, then I had to make it up later that week. Running has taught me that what I once thought were obstacles that were keeping me from doing things, were just my own excuses holding me back. Running teaches me how strong I really am and that there is nothing that can stop me from doing what I want to do, and nothing keeping me from becoming the strong, badass unicorn I am meant to be!

Running is uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable physically, emotionally, and mentally. I don’t like being uncomfortable(who does?). But I now believe that you will never know how much you are capable of, and how strong you are until you are forced to be uncomfortable. “Great things never came from comfort zones” Discomfort causes you to change, to grow, and to adapt. Yes, its uncomfortable, but did I die? NO! I got through it and I can do it again!

I had to give up on giving up. You can see the finish line, but you can’t feel your legs. You can’t just stop. You have to keep going. I remember when running a mile was hard, and now in 6 more days I’ll be running 26.2 miles. Will it be hard? Hell yes! But I know I will be able to do it because I haven’t given up yet, and I’m not going to start now! There would be no way I’d be where I am today if I had given up. There is no way I’d be the woman I am today if I had given up. Giving up is not an option. There is nothing like the feeling of when all you want to do is to stop and give up. You are tired, hungry, irritated, can’t breath, and everything hurts, but yet you still push through and keep going. You may think that you could never run a marathon (yea, I thought that too). But if you work hard, train, embrace being uncomfortable, stop making excuses, and never give up, then you could run a marathon too and anything else you set your mind to!!

Love,

Kayla and Sarah

Twenty. Venti. Zwanzig.

Yesterday marked 20 days till our marathon! Ahhh! Speaking of 20, this past weekend Kayla and I ran our longest mileage run ever! We both ran 20 miles! Did you know Zwanzig is German for twenty?!

The 20 mile mark in our marathon training was a major milestone. This was our final test before the race. This is where we see if we could actually make it, if our bodies can actually run 20 miles or more.

I thought of the 20 mile long run as the closet comparison to the actual race day. I was nervous. Not only was I nervous to run 20 miles but I decided to run my long run differently this time. Breakaway Running is an amazing supporter of the St. Jude Marathon. They have a training plan you can follow as well as weekly group runs. So I decided last minute that I was going to run with the Breakaway running group. I had no idea what to expect. I knew they would have water stations set up along the route and I looked at the course but I didn’t really study it because I thought that there would be enough people that I could just follow. Also the course was set up for 11 miles. People training for the half marathon would run the course once and people training for the full marathon would run the course twice. So I would actually have to run 22 miles! 22 miles!! Ahhh! Crazy right!?! The run was also at 6 am and the temperature was going to be 34 degrees. Two more running conditions that I was not use to.

So on the day of the long run I arrived at the Breakaway store only about 10 minutes before the run. I stretched a little but not that much. I was so overwhelmed with all the people and trying to figure out what was going on that I didn’t pay attention much to what the speaker was saying about the course. There had to be over 100 people there. It felt like race day. It was super cold and my fingers were freezing but I knew I would warm up once I started running.

22 mile route

 Once we started, I was in the middle of the group. I was trying to pace myself based on how they were running. Everything was going great. As I came up on the 11 mile mark, everyone that was around me stopped and turned into Breakaway. I was totally confused. I knew that I had to run the course twice so I kept going forward.  There were literally only a few people in front of me that kept going but they were pretty far ahead. I was scared that I was going to lose them and get lost on the course.  The course was actual streets going through downtown Memphis, so we were running on busy roads and under overpasses. I was nervous to be running alone. I kept running ahead and after a while I noticed that there several people in front and behind me which made me feel better. At around the 12 mile mark, my tummy was really upset and I had to stop at a gas station and use the restroom. When I got out, I continued to run and noticed that there were only a few people behind me now. At mile 13, my legs were starting to hurt. By mile 16 my feet and legs were becoming so painful. I was almost in tears because I was in so much pain. I had to keep running though. I didn’t quite know where I was and I didn’t want to lose the few people that were in front of me. There were a few times that I was the very last person with no one behind me. That was scary. I didn’t think I was going to make it. I was running so slow that I was almost walking. Everything hurt. Then I hit 20 miles! I knew I couldn’t stop now. Only 2 more miles left to go. I kept pushing, kept going till I finally made it! 22 miles!! I had tears in my eyes because I was so proud, also because I was in so much pain. I did it. Only 4 more miles after that and that would be a marathon. At that moment, I finally knew that I would be able to run a full marathon. I was scared and nervous before, but now there was no doubt in my mind that I would be able to complete 26 miles!  I was ready!

22 miles

-Unstoppable, Sarah

Now for the country girl’s tale of running in the middle of nowhere! Much like Sarah, I was pretty nervous to tackle 20 miles. The Friday before the run, I had visited a doctor so that I could get a physical therapy order. They ended up doing a bunch of X-rays on my hip because it has been hurting for a month or so now. The doctor thinks I have abductor tendonitis, which pretty much means overuse of the muscles there. Of course! Then the doctor asks me, “How important is it for you to do this marathon?”

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Like 100 percent important doctor!! Anyways, he totally understood and gave me some anti-inflammatory and ordered for me to start physical therapy. So with this knowledge, I knew that going into this marathon, my only goal was to finish without completely injuring myself.

Which is the same goal for the remainder of my training. Thankfully, my hip doesn’t completely stop me from running. I made sure to keep my 20 mile run at a steady pace averaging at 12:52 a mile. Which is really slow and I really wish I could run faster but I have to accept that I physically cannot. So that will most likely be my pace for the marathon.

My run was pretty uneventful. I did see some puppies and piggies! I didn’t experience too much pain throughout the run. Toward the end I think my mind wanted to give up but not my body. I just kept telling myself just keep running till the next mile. If you keep running, you’ll be done soon. And sure enough, I was done soon! Jk this shit took 4 plus hours!

 

Being able to finish a 20 mile run though is something I never thought I would do. Once you are done, you know that you can finish a marathon. We have been training since July and now here we are less than a month away from the start line!

During this time, I have learned that I am capable of achieving hard goals. I have a lot going on in my life but somehow I still managed to stick to my training and not give up when the miles seemed too much. I don’t even know what I am going to do with myself after the race. Like I get my Saturdays back!!

As the race approaches, we are going to be doing some fun countdown stuff over on our Facebook page. So make sure you go like us and follow us to Memphis where we will run for the children of St. Jude! (And for the food and beer!)

 

With determination,

Kayla

Running in Life Pushing to Progress

 

Kayla sent me this text.

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And this got me thinking. Same time last year we were training for our half marathon and we were running 11 minutes or less per mile. Right now we are running 12 minutes or more. What happened? Yes it’s been hot and we know the heat slows down our pace but we both were not satisfied with our time. 

Kayla’s text motivated me to push myself. (That’s what good running partners do) This week I was determined to improve my pace. As I pushed myself to this goal, it reminded me of how the process of running is the same as our journeys in life.

Running in Life Pushing to Progress

You have to push yourself to progress. You can’t run at the same pace and expect to get any better. Kayla and I got complacent with our pace. Yes we motivated ourselves to run every day but we weren’t really challenging or pushing ourselves.

Even when you have challenges and obstacles stacked against you, you have to continue to push yourself. Prepare yourself for the obstacles. One day it was really hot and I wanted to achieve a new goal of under 11 minutes per mile. I went to bed earlier the night before and drank plenty of water before and during my run. I made sure I was prepared.

It is okay if you stumble, fall, or fail. On my under 11 minute goal, I had one mile over 11 minutes but I also have 4 miles under 11 minutes. This didn’t deter me. My overall average was 10: 30 mpm. I was very proud of myself.

Keep going. Achieve one small goal then another, go one more mile, then another. Keep going and pushing yourself till your main goal is achieved. 

Sometimes in life and running you just have to take your shirt off  (#sportsbrasquad). Have confidence, be free, and don’t care what other people think. It’s your goal, push yourself to be better. In the end you will be more proud of yourself because you pushed yourself without relying on anybody else. One of your biggest motivators will be yourself and your past accomplishments. My greatest motivations are the goals I’ve already achieved. I know can do better because of all the things that I have already accomplished. I did it before, I can do it again. 

Throughout the week I continued to push myself. I was determined. I had to push myself with each step. When I could feel myself starting to run slower I would push myself to keep running at a faster pace. You have to listen to your body, your gut. When making decisions use both logic and intuition. I use logic to not push myself into an injury and I use my gut to push myself to accomplish my goal. 

You can take breaks. But know that even when you are taking a break you can’t completely quit working or pushing. I still walk in between my miles. But I know I can’t walk very slow nor very long or it would ruin my pace. 

On my 11 mpm (minutes per mile) goal, it got really tough on mile 4 and 5, and I really wanted to give up and just run at a slower pace, but I didn’t. You will face your biggest struggles and obstacles when you are close to accomplishing your goal. Keep pushing through till you cross that finish line. 

If you have a major goal or dream, then everything you do must contribute to that. I cannot eat unhealthy and drink a lot of alcohol the night before a big run because I know it will negatively impact my run. Same as your dreams or goals will suffer, I know my run will suffer because of the unhealthy decisions I made.  

Look at my progression over the past few weeks. I am so proud of my progress and all that I’ve accomplished just because I pushed and I was determined.

6 mile 12.558 mile 11.085 mile 10.356 mile 10.44

12 mile 10.12

August 25th: Today’s mantra was Step with Purpose. Push with every step. I just kept repeating that in my head. I kept pushing. I made sure every single step was purposeful. This was my best run yet! Not only did I run 12 miles, but every single mile was under 10:33 mpm. (Blows my mind just typing that) My overall average for all 12 miles was 10:12 mpm. Wow! This just proves to me that I can do anything I set my mind to.

It is hard. It is a struggle. But because of my struggle I grow stronger. Running has changed my life not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard. If it were easy, I would be the same person I was years ago. But because it is hard, I have grown into someone I am proud to be. I am strong. I am confident. I am a badass unicorn!

-Sarah