by Katie Steedly Curling, PhD, Writer & Guest Blogger for TSF
“Find an individual edge and push it and exceed it.”
I recently completed my 14th half marathon. I started running races when I trained for a marathon at the age of 29 – about 20 years ago. This year, as 50 approaches, my goal is to run one half marathon a season. When I say run, I am not talking about blistering speed. I am not talking about finishing near the top of my age group. I am not even talking about beating my personal best times. All of those things would be great, but I describe my goals in terms of overall health, consistency, and joy.
When I first started running, my coach (an Ironman yogi who worked with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training) explained that, at the end of the day – amidst all the talk of getting ripped, crushing it, and leaving it all on the road – finding an exercise you enjoy is the key to exercising over the long haul. That makes sense to me and has proven very true.
Running as a woman living with Turner Syndrome has taught me a few things.
Everything is a bit tougher for me
My body doesn’t always agree with my training schedule. It never has and probably never will. I have to make sure I cross train and rest on my rest days. Often times, I have to psych myself up to get out the door. I am sure that is an issue many people face, not just women with Turner Syndrome, but obstacles like soreness and fatigue are real to me. It is particularly hard the older I get. [Note: See my earlier explanation about needing to find an exercise you enjoy for the strength to stare difficult days in the face and tell them to get out of the way.] Pushing myself never looks the same as the other people in the gym or on the street. Progress, in terms of faster times and better fitting clothes, takes much longer, too. I have learned to be alright with all of that and not let it diminish my will to continue.
Running lets me prove things to myself
“Half marathons prove to me that I can do whatever I set my mind to.”
This is where the destiny of diagnosis enters my story. Mile 8 a few weeks ago, I started thinking how incredibly improbable it was that I would be doing what I was doing – heading toward the finish of my 14th half marathon. My diagnosis in 1987 surely did not predict a life of half marathons: it predicted a future of heart and kidney issues and bone fractures. But, running half marathons has expanded my vision in ways that are not limited to the road and my physical “boundaries.” Running half marathons has proven to me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. Continuing to do half marathons, over time, reinforces the value of persistence and dedication. I carry all that with me as I travel all of life’s hills and valleys. I am reminded that I am steel, and life’s tempering won’t defeat me.
Developing my personal philosophy
I stole my running philosophy from my Team in Training coach of many moons ago. During our time together, when our team of women moving from couch to marathon would see more experienced Team in Training runners, our coach would remind us to run our race. He asked us to find an individual edge and push it and exceed it. He told us not to look around, but rather to look within.
Running my race keeps me from feeling discouraged and being mired in judgement. Running my race asks me to define my goals, rather than be given a definition of the possible from someone or something outside of myself. Running my race is not about finding an excuse or an escape, but rather celebrating the dance between crisis and opportunity – turning living with Turner syndrome into something that allows me to experience life more deeply than I ever could have imagined with all my chromosomes intact.
Starts and finishes are sacred
I always cry at start and finish lines. Regardless of whether it is a big or small race, I cry. A start line is the manifestation of hope. Start lines are always a montage of images flashing across my brain: about when I wanted to quit and didn’t, about the strangers I see along my training route who encourage me as we pass each other on our way, about a tie that binds me to my husband – we train together.
The commitment it takes to start is sacred. A finish line is about raw emotion. My body relaxes. My head celebrates. My eyes look around and soak in the glory of the last few yards of the race. People are cheering. My heart is pumping. My feet are throbbing. My stomach is flipping. The question asked at the start has been answered. I finished. I am a finisher. I finish things and that is sacred.
Katie’s story reminds us that each one of us should look deep within ourselves to determine personal goals. This will look different for everyone, and that is okay! Each one of us is unique, and our needs are different, but working to overcome challenges builds confidence and offers a feeling of accomplishment.
Do you want to run to support TSF? If so, join Team TSF! You can wear awareness merchandise while running your race, and raise funds to help sustain our mission.