About My Running

Here I am running my first 5k, December 19, 2010

I started running when I was 40 years old.  Prior to this, my main form of exercise and transportation was bicycle riding.  I have always exercised, which is a good thing, because it has been proven that people who exercise throughout life have healthier hearts, and live longer lives.  The only time in my life when I did not exercise was when I was an “avid” smoker for nine years in my 20’s.  I smoked because I believed smoking would solve my eating disorder.  How ironic.  Surely, I must have been truly desperate to stop my ED, and truly deluded to think that smoking would do anything at all to stop it.  But as soon as I stopped smoking, I took up fitness walking, and then returned to cycling.

My parents have always been gung-ho about exercise.  In the long run, they benefited from this.  My mother will soon be 85 and is in such good shape that she still climbs mountains and rides a bicycle–no, not a stationary bike, a real bicycle.  When I stopped exercising and took up smoking, they had a fit, and nagged and nagged, not just about the smoking, but they pestered me about my lack of exercise as well.

So when I was 40, one night, I decided, quite arbitrarily,  I’d try running.  I was in good shape, having done plenty of cycling over the past three years.  I made a plan to wake up very, very early the next morning, and run at 3am.  Yes, in the snow.  Yes, in the dark.  I was going to do it.

My history of running wasn’t good.  I was always the slowest runner in the class.  I remember getting laughed at in school for this.  I was always picked last for the team.  I dreaded gym class.  I hope gym class isn’t as demeaning for “slow” kids nowadays as it was for me back in the 1960’s.  It is ludicrous that I went through such torture every day at recess and gym because of my slowness and short stature, and because of the fact that I wore glasses.  So my association with running itself–the “50-yard dash” (remember that?)–and other standardized bullshit that went on in gym class was very negative to say the least.

My first run went well.  I ran a number of blocks.  I was surprised at just how easy it was.  I didn’t bring a cell phone, because I didn’t have one–no one did.  I didn’t bring music.  I didn’t bring a flashlight.  I wore a pair of running shoes, sweats, and some light outer clothing.

I ran again.  And again.  After a while, I built up my distance to a comfortable 2.2 miles, and stayed there.  This was my usual morning run.  I always did the same route.  I ran every day at 4:30 whether it was light out or not.  By this point, I knew in my heart that running was by far the greatest form of exercise my body had ever known, the ultimate sport.

Then, I broke my leg walking down the street. I didn’t realize for a long time that the reason my bones had thinned so much was a direct result of of the psychiatric drugs I had been taking!

Eleven years later, my special friend, Frank, encouraged me to take up running again.   He is a long-time runner who aspires to be the fastest distance runner in his age category where he lives. Since I already walked the dog a number of miles a day, it wasn’t difficult to start running again.  I ran a mile, then quickly increased to two, then to 5k.

I was so excited about running. Running helped me care for my body better and eat in a more sensible, healthy way. I began to see food as fuel, instead as my enemy. However, my therapist, Maria Mellano, was determined to stop me from running. I kept asking myself, “If she is my therapist, why is she trying to stop me from doing what is helpful and healthy for me?” Maria had this idea that “gentle yoga” was the only suitable exercise for a person with ED, that otherwise, I should do nothing. She insisted that I take cabs everywhere (and pay for them), lest I burn a single calorie. I began to realize that Maria Mellano had very serious control issues and I needed to get away from her.

I ran 5k daily for over a month, and then ran my first 5k race, the Winter Classic 5k in Cambridge, MA on December 19, 2010.  I kept this secret from Maria Mellano, not wanting her criticism nor for her to try to stop me.  The race was chip timed, but because I put the chip on incorrectly, my time didn’t register, but I estimated my time at 34 minutes, which was official.

Maria Mellano was very angry when she found out. When I told her I had broken a tooth, she insisted that I go to a psych emergency room! Unfortunately, this resulted in a three-week stay at McLean, unnecessary drugging, a four-month delay getting the tooth pulled, and also, five wrong teeth got pulled before the correct tooth was pulled.  After I left McLean in January, my two best  friends abandoned me, not understanding the devastating effects of the drugging. The drug Trileptal affected my ability to run and caused me so much mental confusion that I could barely function anymore.

Finally, I took myself off Trileptal and started running again.  I was running both on the track and the treadmill at the gym.  I could easily sustain an 11-minute mile over a 5k distance even after having taken the break.  I hoped to work myself up to a 10-minute mile someday.  That was my goal.  I managed to work up my distance from 5k daily to five miles a day.  I had signed up for another 5k, the Larry Kessler 5k for AIDS.  But my speed was slower following the break.  I had to stop running for a time due to some medical complications with my eating disorder.  I spent too much time walking to make up for the fact that I wasn’t running.

I wonder, now, why I wasn’t more pissed off about what had happened to me. I wonder why I kept on faithfully attending those “appointments” which were clearly doing me far more harm than good.  Why did I keep going to Maria Mellano when clearly, she was abusing me? Why did I keep going to my psychiatrist, Dr. Kimberly Pearson, if she had long since stopped listening and stopped caring? It was senseless to keep trying to get her to listen.

I kept running and hoping things would change. Running was my outlet. Looking back, it’s understandable why I ran so much. Unfortunately, I ran myself to the ground and my knee gave out.

The orthopedist had x-rays taken. He diagnosed my problem as arthritis resulting from my 1999 fracture.  He did not examine the good knee, though, to make a comparison.  The verdict: no more running, no more walking for fitness, period.  If I chose to run or walk, I would need a knee replacement, he said.  My run after the bus on May 16, 2011 was my last run.

Was this true? I didn’t dare question it. I had been well-taught that “the doctor is right no matter what.”

My visit to my therapist, Maria Mellano, shocked me further. I expected a supportive or sympathetic response from my own therapist. Instead, after I told her the orthopedist’s verdict, I saw her face light up, almost as if she had triumphed over me. She said, “Yay!”

I knew then I was dealing with a controlling abuser. What was she saying to me? She said she was happy to see me stop running.

I got away from Maria in March 2012. After that, I consulted a massage therapist who told me most likely the orthopedist was completely wrong. The massage therapist told me he had seen such injuries before, and he told me to wait until I had no pain for a year and then try to run again. He told me to start off very slowly.

Who is your best advisor? Not your doctor! Your own body is your best advisor.

I fired my psychiatrist, Dr. Kimberly Pearson, because she refused to listen, after having seen her 12 years.  June 10 2013. I sure felt liberated that day.  After getting off all psychiatric drugs I was able to run much further and easier than ever before. I was amazed! After I moved to Uruguay, I found I was running 10k regularly, without any effort or pain. My plan is to run a 10k race sometime.

I enjoyed bringing Puzzle along on runs, but now that she is nine years old, I no longer bring her running. She loves to run but in her older years would rather sleep all day. (By the way, she snores!)

 

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