I quit one race in my life. It was my first 10K. I thought: I can’t do this, flagged down the relief truck then saw that the finish line was only a half mile away. I could have walked. The force of self defeat is strong in this one. I’ve quit many other endeavors, relationships, jobs. Instead of the catch phrase “It’s not a good fit”, I prefer “Wrong time, Wrong tools.” That’s why being in recovery is so cool. I have tools, I have people in my life to help me figure out if it’s the right time to use them.
Running has been an integral part of my recovery. It’s helped me learn how to breathe. I have a tendency to race through life and burn out before the end of the day. I’m usually ready to give in about 3/4’s way through a half mile, 5K, 10K or work day. As I get older I’ve learned to keep a healthy pace instead of one driven by the fear of being left behind. How much more left behind can I get? In the end it’s just going to be me and God anyway.
This last Thursday, Friday and Saturday I volunteered for and ran The Anchorage Community Mental Health Center’s Race for Recovery. It’s a Mud Run, without the electric shocks and burning coals. It’s like everything I used to love about the 4th of July. Remember the parade, the 3 legged races, the potato sack race and the egg toss at your local Independence Day celebration? Okay, I’m dating myself, now we watch other people compete on television. There was a day when it was the greatest of small town glory was to win a ribbon running on the grass tied by the ankle to another person. The Race for Recovery has a bunch of home made and Alaska natural obstacles. It’s damn fun even setting it up.
On Thursday some of us gave out tee shirts to people picking up their bibs at Skinny Raven in downtown Anchorage. I love Skinny Raven even though I’m more like a fatted calf. I tried on a bunch of clothes and basically chatted up anyone I saw. I do this when I’m nervous and also when I’m happy. I am a little too keyed up these days but also I’m happy because I know I’m going to start taking better care of myself by taking a long break from work. Don’t get me wrong, I love to work but I’ve burnt myself out and I need to refuel. It’s sometimes safer to refuel on the ground rather than in mid-air.
Friday afternoon, the gals from The Alaska Military Youth Academy showed up in force to set up obstacles and test the first half of the course. They even got their instructor to run it. I ran it with them because it was thought that I knew the course a bit having run it for a couple of years. Of course we got lost because I’m always looking down so I don’t fall over. I wasn’t very good at the landmarks. We all got back safely, eventually. At first they were screaming their way into the natural mud holes but they made sure to help their fellow troupe members across. By the end they were basically playing in the man made mud pool covering each other like it was a beauty treatment. My biggest contribution was the natural bug repellant I had stashed in my pocket which I doled out to everyone about half way through as they were crawling with mosquitoes. It is so great that we don’t have ticks in Alaska (or at least not in the swamps.)
I like to dress up for the race because not only is it a celebration of recovery from mental health issues, but it’s a journey and who doesn’t like to dress up for a trip? And trip I did. My favorite fall was near the end. I was actually running through waist high grass when someone I knew yelled, ” Hey Joan, great job, you’re almost done!” My mistake was to look up so I missed a ubiquitous tree root and flopped like a flounder in the mud. Another great achievement this year was that I’m pretty sure I was the winner in the most swear words uttered during the run. The winners ran the race in 30 minutes (it was 5 muddy K). I ran it in an hour. The last participants dived across the rinse pool about an hour after me and they were all co-workers who are very nice people. My logic suggests that the winners didn’t have as much time to swear as I did and the walkers were chatting and supporting each other, laughing and enjoying themselves. I find that difficult. I could have listened to myself swearing and slowed down but something drives me like a Funny Car who likes to crash.
At the end, my arms were all bruises because they are twig-like and I had to haul my 168 lb. tree trunk legs over some walls. I rewarded myself with two delicious hot dogs, about 25 mosquito bites and a very red nose and neck. It was the best day of the year for running. Actually everyday is the best day of the year if I think about it. Today my roommate told me that he marvels at the idea that we are living the farthest in the future that any human has ever lived. I’m taking a break from work for about a month in order to slow down that funny car inside me which has been crashing so hard that it’s started to cry. I hope to blog more, run more, paint, draw, and do tai chi, not to excess! I’m not going anywhere special except inside myself. That’s the part of the recovery journey I need to run for now.
A big thanks to Jennifer Smerud for organizing the run, to Roni, Carolyn, Maria, Brent, Carlos, Heather, The Community work service team, the folks from Skinny Raven,The Alaska Military Youth Academy and all the sponsors and volunteer who made The Race for Recovery possible. See you there next year.