Lessons Learned | Running Through Chemo and Beyond

love where i live
Such a lovely view from last week’s impromptu run with a friend.

To be clear, I was never a runner. At least not until a few years ago.  Diagnosed at 3 years old with exercise-induced asthma, my allergist told me that if something I was doing made it hard for me to breathe, I should stop. Empowered with his stern instruction (and his handy note!) I always got out of the one mile Presidential Physical Fitness run and anything else that required me to traverse the high school track.

The decision to become a runner was more about convenience. It was a way for me to exercise that took the least amount of time away from my family. I could sneak out for a quick run and be back before Clay was out of the shower during the week, or before anyone was even awake on the weekends.  Being a not seasoned (read: slow) runner and needing to get out and back quickly, I was always a solo runner.  Just me and my iPod.

While I have a friend who swears she couldn’t possibly run without her running buddies, I never thought I’d be a social runner. But last year as Sally was training for a half marathon (the one I was supposed to run with her), she would faithfully ask me to run with her at least once a week.  We enjoyed the time together, lots of good chatting was done as we covered the miles around Old Town.  I’m sure she enjoyed the company. But there was the unspoken– we both knew that while I was on chemo, I needed the run. My body needed to stay active.  My solo runs had dwindled to almost non-existent, and I needed those weekly invitations to get me out the door. Lately, finding a day when both she and I are free, have healthy kids, and aren’t snowed in has been tough. I’ve started running with a neighborhood friend, too, which is great as we can meet up while the kids are still (supposedly) sleeping. But I was a little worried this weekend when I headed out for my first significant solo run in a while, resurrecting my favorite Sunday run.  I struggled.  To put it mildly.  I stopped every mile to stretch my very tight legs.  I finished, but I felt defeated physically and emotionally.  I wrote my new running pal, lamenting my struggles.   “I thought I’d be faster without the chatting.  I guess chatting is good for the soul.  And the legs.”

Today’s schedule had a longer solo run waiting for me. If I could have come up with an excuse, I would have embraced it for all I was worth.  I had to force myself out the door.  And would you believe it?  That first mile flew by. I wasn’t tight, I wasn’t slow (for me), and I wasn’t dying to stop and walk home.  It was the longest run I’d been on in ages, and it was so fun to be back on the trails, reminiscing about when I used to run that loop all the time. Friends I’d run into at certain points. I finished strong, relieved that I could run strong on my own. But all those chemo runs with Sally encouraged me to say yes to the intimidating invitation to run with another friend. And the miles spent chatting have taught me something important.  I may or may not be faster when I run with a friend.  But friends are good for the soul.  And the legs.

2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned | Running Through Chemo and Beyond

  1. I’m a solo trail runner with 4 rounds of chemo left to go. I started running last year when I was diagnosed with MS and then breast cancer this summer. It seems such a mental game to get through the first few miles, stopping, walking, stretching and then something clicks and I feel I could go on forever. Someday I’d like to find a running partner but for now I like the quite of running alone. It’s like my chemo time, just me, no pets, chores or chatter. A mini vacation from cancer.


    1. Wow, Danelle, good for you! I agree, the mental part of running is pretty much the biggest challenge! I love that you look at it as a mini-vacation. I’ll definitely remember that one!


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