This story first appeared in RunStreet and is reprinted with permission from Gail Fuller.
May 31, 2002 marked the beginning of my journey to health. A week later, on my 36th birthday, I ran two miles straight in the rain (26 minutes). I wish I could write that I started running for some noble reason. The truth is my youngest brother insulted me — noting that I wasn’t as active as I was in our “youth.” I wanted to prove him wrong, so I decided to become a runner.
Running became a stress reliever for me, especially two years later when I was diagnosed with myoclonic epilepsy and placed on Depakote. My December 12, 2004 journal entry: “Well, it’s been a while. Fighting epilepsy and whatever else is going on (with my body) has caught up with me. Running is much harder. But I’m determined to finish my last two races of the year.” Those two races secured my spot in the 2005 New York City Marathon.
With help from a movement disorder doctor, I removed wheat from my diet. Soon, I began to see the positive effects on my body. I stopped taking seizure medicine. Running started to be fun again.
Ten years after I started running, I made a goal to run a marathon in each of the six states I have lived — Illinois, Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, and New York — before my 50th birthday in 2016. Having run New York City twice in 2005 and 2010, I decided that my next marathon would be the Chicago Marathon on October 6, 2012. It was an opportunity to run in the state that I was born.
Chicago turned into my great adventure marathon. I started strong — enjoying many sites of my childhood as I ran. At mile 15, things changed. I made a trip to the medical tent because of asthma. After two puffs of a rescue inhaler, I was back on my feet. I felt strong again. Then at mile 20, a pain shot through my right thigh. When I slowed down the pain was worse, but like a crazy person I kept running. The next morning I realized my folly. A trip to the emergency room confirmed that I had injured my right leg and was placed on crutches. I returned to New York City, where my orthopedic conducted an MRI and determined that I had severe periostitis of my right femur. The best way to describe it is “severe thigh splints.” I quickly moved from crutches to a cane. My mind was focused on training for my next marathon — Disney in January 2013.
Soon I learned that my road back to running would not be easy. Running Disney would not be possible. I ended up being on the injured reserve for eight months. At times the mental anguish of not running was more difficult than the physical pain I suffered for months.
Months after my injury, my orthopedist cleared me to begin physical therapy. My physical therapist, a fellow runner, understood my desire to run again. I remember the day she told me I could run for 20 minutes outdoors. I felt like a child on Christmas Day. She slowly built up my mileage. Luckily, in July, I was cleared to train for a half marathon. My biggest hurdle was overcoming the fear of getting hurt again. I took baby steps — running twice a week and focusing on Bikram yoga the other days.
On October 7, 2013 — one year after Chicago — I ran the Diva Half in Long Island. Fueled by the desire to run long again and overjoyed to be back among my fellow runners, I finally achieved a sub- two-hour half marathon. I’m grateful to two runners from Black Girls RUN! that paced me for 10 of those 13.1 miles.
Today, I run less but I run smarter. I appreciate rest days and understand the importance of cross training. At 47, I’ve achieved three personal records (one mile: 7:03, 10K: 55:55, and half marathon: 1:59:48) in less than a month since my return to running. Why? Because today I run happy. Because today I run without a care.