Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Finding My Place

This is a tough one. 

There’s no good place to start. There’s no good place to put the voice that’s crawling up from the pit of my stomach. It can’t be stifled down; or it would rot my courage, decay my strength. It can’t be set loose; it would run wild into traffic and topple over the innocent. It would take no prisoners ....

Yet I feel it holds me so; Breathless against the unknown edges of a world I tend to skirt and dodge. Each minute drawing me closer to the ‘Start’, pushes me closer to the ‘End’ of my safe zone.

Stand behind the yellow line.

That’s easier if you can tell where the bloody line is. But if you’re out there, in this world, foundering around amongst the endless noise and chaos and movement, how can you find your place? How do you know where to stand at all?

This is a tough one. All fibres of my being ache for the soft hushed tones of my guide runners. I crave their directions, step here, watch that, stop and wait, okay forward. All comfort has abandoned my senses, leaving them raw and open. 

Ten days of over stimulated. Ten days of on alert. Ten days of.... 

but 

.... I can’t write the story before it’s lived. 

All I can do is celebrate the small victories so far. Like today? Today I found the restroom in a Walmart. Today I said the I love you’s. Today I didn’t drown in the fear that seems to be my endless company for 314 miles.  

Tomorrow... I will summon the fight from somewhere I’ve hidden it. Tomorrow I will find the fierce I will surely need....


Two more sleeps. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Dinosaurs and Nightmares.....

The fridge light floods the kitchen floor.  A tub of yogurt I’ve been searching for in my dreams for what feels like hours, is right there; centre shelf, middle of my view.  I extend my hand to reach for it and then stop.  What was that?  A gurgle?  A groan?  a … laugh?  impossible… My stomach must be talking.  Midnight snacks usually happen when your tummy is rumbling. I reach again towards the plain white container of yogurt… It looks familiar now.  This whole thing feels odd.  I don’t often indulge in dairy products.  They usually leave me, well, gurgling and groaning…  Yet here I am still reaching forward.  Almost as if I can’t control my impulse.  

The Stuff, the label says.  Even that sits funny.  Where have I heard of that product before?  Who bought this stuff? I try to retract my hand, beginning to think better of my choice. The yogurt, though, seems to have a different force pulling me in.  It’s as if The Stuff was Alive????

This can’t be a thing?  The lid opens on the container, from within?  Something forced it open?  How can that be?  Yogurt doesn’t move?  Doesn’t think?  Doesn’t NEED?  Still the lid came ajar and the yogurt itself bubbled up over the edge of the container and began to move down the side of the container, as if to reach for my hand. My fingers, outstretched, shaking, now inches from the ever growing blob of white… STUFF?  

I need to scream.  I need to escape.  I need to NOT EAT THIS STUFF!!! Make this stop… must make this stop… 

…. and then I’m sitting upright in my bed.  A bit sweaty.  A bit shaken.  A bit relieved I hadn’t actually eaten that alive yogurt from my dream.  1980’s B horror movies can really mess with your head.  

There are no Dinosaurs in Tennessee.  

I keep telling myself that.  I’ve given up watching scary things these last few months.  That leaves our movie choices to Oceans Eight and Mama Mia.  Ask me how much dear husband will be happy when this is over?  But last weekend I agreed to watch Jurassic World.  Because, frankly, there are no dinosaurs in Tennessee. My Chiropractor asked me this morning if I was nervous or afraid for the adventure?  

“There are no dinosaurs in Tennessee.  Surely I’ll be just fine.”  Was my reply.  The secretary, who had a bit of back story, suggested I go home and watch Deliverance.  I left their office with a chuckle and, white cane extended and ears to the ground, began navigating the construction nightmare that was their parking lot, and my entire street.  

I have these skills.  Let’s call them Batskills.  In truth they are Orientation and Mobility training skills.  Given to me gratefully throughout my high school years.  They help me make educated decisions before crossing a road.  They help me assess and evaluate before jumping into a thing.  Trust me when I say, they are always in use.  As I walked home and approached the only road I needed to cross, I followed all the bat skills I had.  

Wait.

Line yourself up with the intersection.

Listen.

Assess.

Make a judgment call.

800 meters from my door I did this thing. It was a “T” intersection.  One car turning left from the road to the right.  One truck waiting to turn right from the road I intended to cross.  I arrived with the truck.  Car was in mid turn.  Cane out.  Lined up to cross.  After car turned, I made my way to cross.  It was distinctly my turn.  However much that may have been true, the driver of the truck disagreed.  Did not care.  Did not rethink.  Did not wait.  

It continues to amaze me how little of the world people with vision actually see.  

I stopped.  A foot from harm.  Not willing to take on this battle today.  Another day, perhaps I’d make more of a stink.  Perhaps I’d have been more startled.  Perhaps i’d have reacted a bit differently.

800 meters from my door and I can’t help but think…. Well fuck. This is gonna suck.

What was I thinking?

Scary movies out.  Time spent in my own fear kept to a minimum these days.  I cannot sit still.  I cannot stand and wait for the kettle to boil without shaking.  Can’t seem to brush my teeth without crying.  

I suppose it’s because I feel this way in my every day that I have to do this.  I should not feel less than simply because the Way is inaccessible.  I should not need to quiet my voice of frustration to make life easier for those who have no issues navigating the world.  

My insides are screaming.  My heart is exploding.  There is a want that yells louder than the fear.  Do not ask me if I want to do this.  Please ask me if I must.

The world is a big place.  So very big.  The world has so many moving parts.  

The last of my bags packed and now loaded in the truck, I have one last task; I needed to assign a distinct text tone to my crew captain Chris.  This is so when I’m running I can pick it out against the endless traffic and other sounds.  Can you guess what I chose?

A T-Rex roar….


So maybe I’m a bit wrong.  Maybe there are dinosaurs in Tennessee?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Undoing At Sulphur Springs

It feels like a tearing down of camp.  

A disbanding of the community.

It feels like years of effort washing out with the tide.

Someone sold me a yard sale jigsaw. A ziplock bag of edges and colours all askew.  I’m so stubborn that I have to see it through.  Maybe there’s a picture coming.  Maybe there are pieces missing. 
… an incomplete set

Still I am fixated on piecing it together.  It’s finding peace with that, that is overwhelming. 

I am stumbling in the light, bumping into things, tripping over things, jamming my toes against rocks I’ve known were there.  I am increasingly lost the more I am found.

I sent them away, my guides I mean,  I sent them packing.  Oh how I loved them.  Oh how I enjoyed their edits.  Oh how I miss their buffer.  My doing.  My choosing.  My footsteps in the light, in the blinding, blazing splattered light.

I’ve been struggling as to how best to tell this tale.  I’ve been rattling around with syllables and imagery of how best to describe barriers and obstacles.  Maybe, like my yard sale puzzle, the picture will appear clearly.

The grocery store plaza 800m from my door is under construction.  Upgrades. improvements.

Noise.  Commotion.  Distraction. Smells. People. Moving parts.

It feels inhuman to not be able to go make a bank deposit alone, to ‘elect’ to avoid that coffee shop for six months, to fear the next time I need tylenol from the drug store, to not eat the last apple because then you’d have to go buy more.

These are not things I can’t do.  These are things I currently can’t manage under the conditions set out in front of me by society at large.  

Why no guides?  

This is why.  

I need to tell the tale of how inaccessible the world is.  I need it to be persuasive.  I need it to be compelling.  I need change to be something worth fighting for.  I need to be heard.

That has to be my biggest fear; not being heard.  Disability should be heard. It deserves a place beyond a token card holder.  It deserves a voice.

Fear grows like a weed, like a fungus, like a wild thing. Fear of the unknown, fear of the misunderstood, fear of the lack of control.  This Vol State training has consumed me with that fear.  It bubbles and simmers on the back burner.  It spits and froths under the excess heat and stress.  Fear, I know your name.  I know your name more than I know my own.

Friday at 8pm we started running at Dundas Conservation Area.  Not quite dark, no longer bright.  Sulphur Springs officially begins exactly 10 hours after my first step.  Seems like an unfair advantage right?  Let me tell you, it felt more like extra punishment.  And I was there to embrace it all.  

The forest was sleeping and dark.  Steven kept me company.  Head light bobbing up and down in the dark beside me.  Silence between us. Company only.  Usually on a run I can anticipate his next step, feel his heart quickening before a hill, hear the inhale before a mouthful of descriptives were thrown out in order.  It nearly broke me, this silence.  No words.  No gestures.  Not even sure his socks were different colours.  Promised myself I wouldn’t look.  I don’t envy him, or the position I’ve put him in.  No one wants to put their loved one in danger.  No one wants to walk them to the door and say go on, go… No one wants to walk beside and SAY NOTHING when there are things to say, obstacles pending everywhere.  I had to get over myself pretty fast in the first few miles.  I wasn’t more than three feet away and wanted to scream “why are you doing this?”  “Don’t you love me anymore?”  

Yes he does.  So much so he could do this.  Remember I asked him to. Not sure that makes me a very nice person.  More on that later.

I broke the course up in my head into sections.  Maybe they make sense to you who have run this place?

The descent - Martin rd… the optimistic beginning

The gimme - everything until you cross the road, because honestly it was the easiest part

The new altitude - a few climbs that were added to keep us off the road.  This took away a portapot access point, added hills, showed me a jeep road looking trail that make my goosebumps tingle in barkley memories.

The Bruce - a warm hug for those that know her… the first escarpment sight.. the one everyone takes a picture of.

Aid station one - thank the heavens

The dive - Those incredibly technical steps down off the bruce into the ravine, and the root tiptoeing after, plus the climb.

The round about - Seriously who puts a roundabout in the woods? 

The new altitude take two - seems hillier this way

Two way traffic zone - after the road crossing

The blurry grass lollipop - the new last year edition.  This section hid the roots, played mayhem with my headlamp, made me cry. two hydrocut crossings, timing mats to trip on… and oh the way the sweet grass smells in the heat.

Last loop - the second turn off the trail you dam well know takes you to the lollipop. ITs like someone decided you hadn’t gave the climbing your best so here’s a second chance bitch… (Or second, or hundredth)

Aid station two - people who smelled better than me and who promise only 7 km to the end to the loop

the lollipop - Root dancing, bugs are the worst here. The trails feel older.  The ground doesn’t drain the same.  The stick, the round, the up and up and up those sisters, the lick that never seems to end, the down and down some more and the stick again.  Ending again in the root dancing and bugs

aid station once more

The ascent - one last fuck you before someone might offer you a freezie.

The first loop we got half way down the hill and Steven retreated to get his headlamp.  Geez, these ultra runners I tell you!  Everything went as planned.  Including the lump in my throat.  At the Dive the caution tape was before my memorized steps. They wanted us to use the old way down?  But I’ve never gone that way.  I’ve never walked those steps.  I’ve not… Fine.  Fuck you fine.  And then mud and slippery ground and Steven offering his hand.  “Go the other way the next time” he said …”let me help you” he said.  Oh Jesus… I can’t give in so close to the beginning?  One second of hand holding, one dart in my unguided run of the year, one million pounds of instant guilt.  More than anything, I want your help.  I think that’s what makes this whole journey to Vol State so incredibly frightening. 

At the Blurry grass section I had to ask Steven to run farther ahead.  His headlamp made the ground dance.  20 meters have never separated us on a run.  “Just here to keep the coyotes away baby” Stupid running.  But they were indeed out and prowling around.  As were owls, deer, skunks, raccoons, and Hooligans apparently. 

On our second loop 80% of the reflective markers had been removed or deliberately turned away so that they wouldn’t reflect oncoming light.  I cannot believe the people who did this thought it was, what funny? What if I’d gone alone?  It’s bad enough I can’t see the pink ribbons anywhere.  

On our third loop the sun came up on the lollipop.  And yes, it actually does take me that long to run 60 freaking km on unguided trail. I am so sick of defending my pace; it’s a nauseating insult to my soul.  People were beginning to staff the aid stations.  They were of course confused as to why we were out there.  I was happy to see them.  Happy to know my next solo loop wouldn’t be just me and the coyotes.

Loop four I took my poles, interpreting my steps by sound and resonance of taps.  I left Steven to nap.  I hoped Jennifer-Anne got some sleep as well, although from the size of her newly knitted blanket, I doubt if she got any.  People started popping up around me on the course.  Rounds of ‘good job’ ‘amazing’ ‘doing great’ … you racers, you’re the best alarm clock ever.  That voice in my head that you may never understand, answered each one of you with a ‘this isn’t great, I’m not great, I’m tired and barely moving, don’t kid yourself’.  The filter won over and I only allowed a “you too” to escape my lips.

This ultra running business can build you up.  It can move mountains in your soul.  It can change your life, if you let it.  

This ultra running business can tear you down.  It can bury you under avalanches in your soul.  It can change your world, if you let it.

All that stands between you and that… is a matter of belief.

Loop five I think was my longest loop.  I lost my running bounce and was hiking.  My foot was talking back.  I’d been taking a mental inventory of the aches and pains and NONE of them were worth stopping for.  None of them worth giving up, giving in for.  I found myself once again standing at the Dive.  It was then I realized my vertigo was winning.  Think I’d been ignoring it for a while.  The root steps I knew were there in front of me.  They had multiplied however, morphed into about a zillion dancing steps I couldn’t steady.  Runner noises from behind brought me back to the present, back to the place of knowing there was no other way out.  I took a step back and asked them to go first.  Said it was more difficult to have noise behind me on the descent.  Most went without question. One turned and asked if I needed help, if I could see the ledge.  Filter allowed me to say no I can’t see it, but I know it’s there.  Thank you, I’m fine.  Still I stood. 

Still I stood.  Tears stealing the day.  You can’t run 100 miles afraid of the one you might have trouble with.  Still the roots danced out of focus.  Five minutes? More?  I stood.  A few more friends came from behind and really wanted to help. That nearly broke me, as it meant they could see my struggle.  Graceful in an ultra I will never be.  Gratefully they too went on.

I took a picture.  I took a picture of the steps, then zoomed in on the image and used that memory to steady the roots in my view.  Closed my eyes and went down on my rear.  Fumbling in the light.  My only way, in the light.

Once at the bottom of that ravine, and over the bridge more roots and a climb to write home about only because of the angle of the dirt.  Another friend from behind, “How are you doing?” Please don’t ask that.  There is no question I’d like to answer less.  That ultra running stuff…

At the last aid station before the lollipop, I sat.  I sat and rubbed my feet, removing the stone that had wedged its way into my left heel, bruising it nicely for the memory.  I sat and listened to the people who said things like “you look so strong!” Someone sat beside me complaining of knee pain, saying he was done.  This is when I knew my vertigo would win.  As a Massage Therapist, I would have stopped my race and helped any other day.  I’ve never turned away a need before.  Instead?  I offered him tylenol.  That was good for a few guilt points.  

I texted Jennifer-Anne that I needed a break.  That I was trying to piece things back together.  Once I’d gathered, into the lollipop I went.  On my way back down Jennifer-Anne met me.  I think she most of all struggled with not telling me things.  We walked back to the start/finish to eat and regroup.

They fed me. They humoured me.  They let me change.  They sprayed me for the bugs. Too late I’d been their feast last loop.  There was so much noise in the base camp.  Incredibly loud chaos.  My head was spinning.  I think I left on loop six more to get away from the noise than to run.  

Loop six, what would be my last loop, I went entirely off the clock.  12 minutes to get to that section. 35 minutes to make that loop.  Aid station one I texted back that the vertigo wasn’t getting better, but that I was hopeful that darkened skies would settle it down.  I found my run again.  I knew it would come back.  It always does.  Wait for it.  It will.  I promise.

Run or no run, the earth was moving.  I could feel it rotating under my feet.  The dive was just as bad as the time before.  I had expected it.  Didn’t even look at the ground.  Checked my picture and went down on my rear again.  Every effort was for making it to the aid station before the lollipop so I could put my head lamp on there.  I almost didn’t make the self imposed cut off before dark.  

Aid station volunteers cheered when I arrived. Angels you are.  I can’t eat your food, but I love that you bring breath to the forest.  “See you in an hour!” they offered.  Um no… 2 maybe?  90 mins at least. 
Coming down the hill my third nose bleed of the race hit me, which did not help the vertigo, but man did the bugs love it.  Head lamps danced in the distance ahead of me which made me believe they were stars above.  I tried to look up and pull things into focus.  Perspective?  But every time I looked up everything went white.  Blasting glaring white.  Send me to the ground, hands in the dirt, bright white.  

My wonderful crew met me with medicine at the bottom of the road.  Because I knew it wasn’t safe to be out running anymore - even if my legs couldn’t care less if we did. we called it.  There was no rally.  There was never meant to be a buckle, having started some ten hours before the pack, even if I’d covered the entire 100 miles, I would have defiantly turned a buckle down.  

You know what there was though?  120km of unguided trail running.  More than 26 hours of unspoken roots and bumps and horse shit and ravines.  There was over 36 hours of awake time with no asleep on the side of the trail.  There was zero gastrointestinal upset.  There was intake of real food 100% of the time and, sorry aid station staff, proper digestion at nearly every pot.  There was supportive family and friends and strangers everywhere.  

That ultra running stuff batman… It can change you, if you let it.

Oh and my favourite line of the entire event goes to the one guy with (humour? balls?), who made me smile anyway… after seeing my “blind runner” bib on my back, came up beside me and said 

“You’re going the right way!”

why yes… yes I am…


Constant. Forward. Motion.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Apology Not Accepted

Apology Not Accepted

The choices I’ve made weigh heavily on my heart and soul.  They keep me awake at night.  They inspire me to do the work when my everything screams no. My choices and I are old friends of contention.  We are thick as thieves in the predawn awakening hour of my consciousness.  They always bring along fear for a fun game of double dare.  I’m not sure if i win or lose this game.  It feels like a war I never actually fight; more like a battle that might forward the cause - if I were to win. 

If I were to emerge victorious… fear banished forever… and me, endlessly capable.

Disability likes to apologize. For getting in the way, for taking time, for even being present sometimes.  


“Oh I’m sorry, could you please read that form to me?  The font is too small for me to see it.”

“I’m sorry, could you hold the door for me, while I push my chair through?”

“I’m sorry, would you mind picking me up?  Dropping me off?  Letting me participate?  Allowing me feel like a valued member of society?”

I went for a run two weeks ago.  The last text I sent before leaving my house in the dark for a solo six miles read 

“I’m sick of being sorry”

Seems simple right?  I’m tired.  Tired of taking up time and feeling undeserving of it.  I’m sick of being the last one to raise their hand and bring attention to the things, the inaccessible issues that were forgotten.  I’m exhausted with being the afterthought, the retro fitted, the off centre, the last one chosen for the team.

The darkness takes you.  It makes you quiet.  it wraps around you, welcomes you to be part of the background, to blend in.  You can fight it, search for the place of light among the shadows, be the light for a time even; but darkness tends to win.  Darkness makes no apology. 

Darkness accepts no apology.

Sometimes the sound of my shoes on the road make me uneasy.  I tend block out that sound with soft music.  I stick to the routes I know, following memorized footsteps around the block, through the neighbourhood I’ve seen a million times.  I know the twists and turns, the uphills and curves.  I can time out a run to the minute with ease and confidence.  I can combine any number of trails or city paths, or sidewalks along the busy sections.  I know when to raise my feet more for the seams on the bridges and the curbs that are eroding away.  I blend in well with the darkness.  

I blend in well with the darkness.

I ask very little of it in return for safe passage.  Warning of a rising sun would be nice; although admittedly once every spring I get stranded on a street corner I know that I know, but since I have no sunglasses to buffer the truth of your now awake world, I become frozen. I give the urban wildlife their space.  I tread lightly along the edge of hope. I apologize for my intrusion and lack of grace while out there.

“I’m sick of being sorry”

The text rang through my head as I ran.  Why does disability apologize?  Why do we feel the need.  Why am I sorry for merely being here most days?  I’m caught in that struggle as I run.  What if I wasn’t sorry?  What if I just was?  Don’t we all struggle?  Don’t we all need help from time to time?

“Don’t be afraid to stop and ask for help along the way” a friend says to me while dialoging about fear.  The race I picked, the manner I chose, the shear volume of things beyond my control and the weight of all my decisions - oddly this hadn’t occurred to me.  Ask for help.

I’m sorry that I might not be able to do that.  

“I’m sick of being sorry” 

Road cross in the dark.  The smell of coffee in the air from the drive through near by.  The speed-bumps that give my feet extra reason to rise.  Another road cross, and another right turn.  Down the road, past the trail I dare not take in the dark alone.  Over the last bridge before the subdivisions just beginning to stir.  

Bridge seam.  

Left foot, right foot, repeat.

And then movement… across the road, on the other side of the bridge.  In the space I can barely distinguish, in the darkness yonder… Movement of a person, two hands on the cement wall, one leg up on the ledge, and jump.

Wait.  My brain can’t comprehend. It’s 5:00am on a Saturday.  And I’m running.  Did I just see that right?  Did that guy just jump off this bridge?  Into the cold water below?  Sure it’s not deep but there are rocks and holy crap I think he just jumped off the bridge!

I took my ear buds out.  I finished crossing the bridge, deciding what to do.  I got to the lights and waited.  Do I call for help?  Do I go and check?  Do I …

I crossed the road, more at a walk than a run.  My right foot had just landed on the opposite sidewalk when I saw this inconceivable thing.  The guy who I’d seen jump was clambering back over the edge.  How can the even be a thing?  

And I’m angry, because I worried.  Because I crossed the road to check.  Because this guy was obviously high, or drunk or both and playing such dangerous games with the dark.  

Two breaths of anger in and out.  And time sped up.  The guy was angry too.  Mad I’d interfered.  Mad that I cared?  Mad that I stopped?  Yelling.  Screaming.  No traffic on the road. And he’s running, rushing, towards me.

“I’m sorry….”

Running for survival is a very different beast.  It reminds me I could be free.  It whispers hurry hurry in my ear.  And the voice from behind me is cursing, is yelling, is threatening to shoot me, to wait there every day to shoot me.  

By now I’ve fished my phone from my pocket and, knowing my call will ring on my husbands phone I’ve called him. 
“You have to come get me? Please come get me.  He’s chasing, he’s yelling. Can’t you hear that?”

Up the road and quick into the subdivision.  I’m sorry for waking you.  I’m sorry for disrupting the peace and calm that dark can be.  The chaser ran out of wind and stopped.  He was no where to be seen.  I’ve rung a door bell and handed the phone to the home owner and begged to wait inside for Steven.  Let me harbour here briefly?  I’m sorry to intrude.

The police did not find him or signs of him.  The darkness faded to day.  The world carried on.  The run finished in my head.  One step, two step, repeat.

It took me a week to go out alone in the dark.  Friends got me miles while the dust settled on my fear again.  Sparks of hope glimmer in the ashes.  Inspiring stories of friends and trails and happiness kept me going.

A week later on my own again, I couldn’t run that direction.  I couldn’t breathe the first three km from the fear that oozed out my pores.  You can’t let it cage you, this fear, this helplessness, this neediness.

Parts of my disability will forever create a dependence within me.  

"I’m sorry to interrupt your trail run, would you mind calling out ever obstacle for the next 99 miles?”  

Do you know how scary it is to cross the shopping mall parking lot to catch that next bus?  Do you know how frightening it can be to stand in your doorway in the dark wondering if today you’ll be granted safe passage along your run?  

You can’t let it cage you.  You can’t let it define you.  You mustn’t.  


Don’t accept my apology.  That is my only ask of you; if we ever meet, don’t accept my apology.  I’m not sorry for taking up space.  I’m not sorry for trying.  I’m not sorry for not letting someone else definition of disability cage me into anything.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

Asphalt Aversion

I am training.  

They call this training.  The running.  Countless steps of movement. 
Movement.  

A soft spring to a step I have gotten comfortable with; the following. Yes indeed, comfortable.  I will follow you.

I could not begin to count the selfless guide runners I’ve met over the last 9.5 years of this ‘sport’.  Can a thing be a hobby, if it’s calling is a cold sweat soaked sheet in the hours most still think of as night?  Can it be a pastime, if it’s life-force carries your heart beyond the threshold of fear? An unfettering.

Indeed, I have become quite comfortable in the following.  I wonder if my guide runners know I wish they were close when I walk the bank to cash the work cheque?  I wonder if they know I miss them dearly when crossing the six lane, merge twisted city round about between me and my meeting?  I wonder if they know just how dependent I have become on their voices in my head?

My goal has always been to create awareness for Inclusive Sport.  This is what I cling to in the moments that my loathing for the actual ‘running’ creeps through. It always strikes me as funny when someone thinks I truly must love this sport. Everyone finds a voice and a medium.  Running just happens to be mine.  

Occasionally, when surrounded by the map in my head and the landscape that skirts my reality; yes, I do love running.  I love to follow the trail, see where it leads.  See what the world is like on the other side.  See who I am after the end.  I love that even when my skin doesn’t seem to fit, I can move along a wood, or a field and feel whole.  

Yes, I am training.

I picked this goal to run a map I can’t quite see, across Tennessee this July.  I picked it as focal point, as an “A” race.  I knew the training would be a must.  Not all of my training will make sense to you.  There is a side of fear I must visit.  There are demons there I have avoided at all costs, for far too long. There is this ‘independence’ syndrome that I normally don’t see in running.

The Last Annual Vol State; 314 miles of space I’ve never run through.  314 miles of unknown roads; of twists and turns and crossings and, apparently charging dogs. Outside of my ‘hobby’ of running, I tend to get angry at the levels of inaccessibility in the world.  When I’m running alone in the dark, I stick to the roads I’ve practiced while following you.  I might even have asked you to drive me down them first.  I like practice.  I like repetition.  I like loops.  I like to memorize the steps.

I like to judge the depth of a hollow from the sway of your hips.  I like to anchor to your footfalls on the earth.  The sound of your breath against the tree and rock are my most intoxicating moments on a run.  The way you ‘see’ the world and how you share that with me, is the biggest gift, you’ll never know you gave.

A gift is never is to accept. I am fully aware that my constant slow, decreases your pace for too long.  I am fully aware that to help me, you give of your own training.  I try to distribute guide running requests across a number of people.  This is so as to not take away too much from your possible.  I know how you runners celebrate and relish in your possible.  I’m grateful for all the guided steps I’ve ever been blessed with.

It is however a sheltering.  I am tethered to the want of your voice, of your instructions to navigate through the ablest world in front of me.  There is a child like ache in my soul to be ‘capable’ of just living.  It is a hard reality to swallow that the world is not set up to allow such inclusive living.  It’s difficult to look my children in the eye and say “I’ve done what I can, this is the way the world is”, and then sleep well at night.

As a whole, we can do better. 

And so I run.  I continue to flirt with this ‘hobby’ of mine. Space for disability in sport, and in life, may not come to fruition in my lifetime, but I will do what I can.

I am training.  But my training is a haunting, hollowing experience of loneliness and fear facing.  It is the running without you.  It is the unknown road in front of me.  It is the noise, the din that approaches in the light when I cannot see and have no telling voice in my ear to diffuse the fear.  It is the wind moving between me and the oncoming.  It is the edge of space where asphalt stops and more unknown begins.  Is there a ditch? A safe step at least?  When I get to that corner, will I be able to cross?  Is there a light?  A stop sign?  The driver of the car may have waved me on, but I’ll never know.  I can’t see through windows.

314 miles I’ve chosen to run alone.  In my head your voices will sound though, in all my moments of attempted bravery.  I hope to run most miles at night, but time will tell that tale for sure.  There is a rather big difference between the black dark of country roads and the street light bathed city streets a slumber.  On my side I will wear a BLIND RUNNER bib.  Most will only catch a glimpse of this as they whip by at racy speeds.  All the reflective and LED bright vests will be in my possession.  I have made room in my pack for fear; because she is my constant companion along the unknown asphalt for all 314 miles. 


Sometimes, to create space for a thing, a notion, a change, or a hope; you have to move beyond the margins you’ve been confined to and take up a previously shouldered place and do your best to be noticed.