This week marks the start of my training for the New York City Marathon. Eighteen weeks of running regularly on a set schedule, slowly increasing my mileage until I hit 26.2 miles on November 2. If you’d asked me two years ago, I would have thought this was crazy (half of me still does today).
But as most of you know, my life changed dramatically 22 months ago when I was diagnosed with a massive blood clot spanning from my left ankle to my heart–I had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolisms (PEs). (See my first post here for more.)
I’m lucky I’m alive and didn’t lose my leg.
After the initial shock, the worst news I received was from the doctors, who told me that although my life would be mostly normal, I should probably come to terms with the fact that I would never run again.
Even though I had never considered myself a runner, I was devastated.
Long distance running was something I had only casually started a year earlier after a bad breakup. I had run two half marathons, but running was not a lifelong hobby. It didn’t matter. When I was told I would never run again, I was still heartbroken.
It wasn’t until Halloween 2012 that I had hope. My new doctor at Stanford was willing to work with me, and he was as aggressive in my treatment as I was determined to get better. He gave me a stent (metal vein) in my pelvis and told me that maybe I could run again. Anything was possible.
I was determined to regain use of my leg.
DVT left the veins in my left leg a scarred and clotted mess. The blood could go into my leg, but there was no pathway for the blood to leave. I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes without excruciating pain. Additionally, because I had been bedridden for so many months, the muscles in my leg had atrophied.
So I started to go to the gym.
It was slow work, and sometimes my workouts consisted of no more than walking down my stairs and to the gym a few blocks away, but these walks slowly became five minute walks on the treadmill.
The pain was horrendous–my leg felt as though it would burst from the inside out. The pressure of blood pumping into my legs with no way to leave would become increasingly mind numbing as I walked, but because my doctor had said that even painful exercise would not further damage my leg, I kept going. (Though you should always consult a doctor before doing any painful exercise).
Soon I could slowly jog 100m on the treadmill. And then 200m. And then 400m. Each day I was able to bear the pain for a minute or two longer than the day before.
What I did not realize was that the more I ran, the more my body worked to compensate for my activity. Although I did not have use of my deep leg veins, my body created a web of new veins (collateral veins) to meet the demands I was putting on it. The harder I ran, the harder my body worked.
Six weeks after my last surgery I ran a 10K in Central Park.
Six months after I was told I would never run again I ran the Brooklyn Half.
I’ve run more than a dozen races since then, including four more half marathons.
I am still slower than I was two years ago, and it is still painful to run, but in the last year and a half, running has become a part of me.
This is where the marathon comes in.
A marathon was something I thought impossible two years ago when I was healthy. A marathon was impossible a year and a half ago when I was in the hospital. A marathon is still impossible today. But by training for and running the NYC Marathon, I want to prove to myself (and hopefully to you) that anything is possible.
I hope that you will keep me accountable and cheer me on during my 18-week journey. I’ll post weekly on this blog, sharing my progress as well as various stories and tips from my experiences with DVT (for any readers who are also afflicted with DVT and would like to learn more).
Without the support from friends and family, I would not be where I am today. Let’s take this to the next level.