First, the physical. I had pretty significant blisters on the ball of my feet, both of them. One had a blister a bit smaller in size than a credit card. Luckily, they have pretty much healed, although the feet are still a bit tender.
And I moan a lot when I get up from a lying or sitting position, particularly when I have been there for a long time. I sound just like an old man. Which I suppose I’m becoming.
Fortunately, there really hasn’t been any other physical ailments. I’ve recovered really well.
The biggest changes have been mental.
You know, the end of the marathon itself had not been one where I was in the best of mental states. For about the last ten miles or so I had such a challenging time with the heat, dehydration, and everything else, that the end of the marathon took so much out of me — I was struggling and in such pain that I couldn’t think about what it meant. I was just so over everything and was ready to finish and take my shoes off.
But the longer I get away in time from the marathon, the more it means to me. I didn’t go into this marathon “for myself” — I did this really for to celebrate my 5 years of being disease free, the cause, to expand my involvement, to raise money, and to be an even bigger motivator to others. For me, it was never a question in my head that I’d finish the marathon. Of course I was going to finish the marathon. I’ve been around the Team in Training program, and knew it was very good in helping new runners finish a marathon, and I knew the program would help me to do that. So it was never a question I would complete it.
But it’s hit me in the last couple of days — wow, I just completed a freakin’ marathon! That’s a HUGE deal, as impressive as other things I’ve done in life. One of the TNT captains noted that, if estimates that 280,000 people in this country have run marathons, and there are about 300 million US citizens, that means that roughly only 1 in 10,000 people have completed a marathon. Not that many people! It’s impressive an achievement, even without all the other things about it. Particularly me, someone who’s not been athletic in any way in my previous 43 years, some dabbling in high school football notwithstanding.
Another thing I’ve realized is not that I’ve just completed it, but what it took to complete it. One of the TNT coaches, the one who ran with me to the finish line at the marathon, made this comment about me finishing in light of the problems I had — he said, “Anyone can run a marathon when they are feeling well but it takes a lot more to stick one out when you are not. You showed me a lot out there on Sunday, you have a lot to be proud of.” He’s quite inspirational himself. More on him and that experience in a later post.
Another thing a couple of people have pointed out to me — It isn’t that I’ve JUST run a marathon, something extremely noteworthy by itself, but I’ve run a marathon AND survived leukemia, two very significant and inspiring accomplishments. My good friend and running partner Rene mentioned to me how phenomenal it is to get to five years disease free, and to achieve in an endurance event (she’s also five years disease free and she’s done a 100-mile bike race along with several triathlons). She’s very proud of me, and is pretty insprirational to me as well, and she’s right.
So while the physical recovery from the marathon is almost complete, the mental and emotional experiences seem to continue and develop each day.
I’m quite thankful, and amazed.
For those who are paying attention, you may have noticed that the last training update was on 2/18. What happened in the roughly two weeks since?
Knee sprain, that’s what. Last update I had mentioned how well everything was going, and, oh, by the way, I had a spill while skiing and my knee was a problem. It unfortunately stayed a problem. I was out most of the last full week of February with a problem knee. I tried the track workout on Tuesday the 20th, and did a little, but I wasn’t ready. I laid low the remainder of the week.
This week, I was almost ok, with very little knee pain. I was all set to try the track workout on Tuesday 2/27, until, that afternoon. Sinus headaches and icky flu feelings came over me. When I got home to change to go to track, I told myself, I’ll just lay down on the bed for just a couple minutes and go. An hour later, I wake up, face down on the bed, drool on the pillow, still in my tie and work shoes.
So I was afriaid the rest of the week would be like that. But by Thursday, today, 3/1, I was feeling good enough to let Rene talk me into running in the Marina after work. I did fine — I felt good. No knee stuff. I took it somewhat easy, doing the run/walk thing, but I did four miles. And it was another beautiful day. So I think I’m back on track.
This pic wasn’t taken on Thursday, but it is the Marina, or more precisely, at Crissy Field. Check out Alcatraz in the distance behind me.
Much of this second hospitalization, in mid-January 2002, is a blur to me, for reasons that will become more apparent later. But there are several events that I do recall. Oh boy, do I recall them.
I do recall that during those first few days I was fighting infections, getting IV antibiotics, still having trouble with both ends of my digestive tract, etc. I don’t recall the first few days in the hospital being that different than being at home, physically.
Another thing I recall was Rene McGillicuddy coming in. Rene is the current running buddy of mine, but at that time neither of us were involved in those activities. Rene is also a fellow consultant for AIG with me, not part of the Healthcare group, but she and I had developed an acquaintance from work events, finding out we were both from middle-of-nowhere Texas.
She came to visit me during the beginning of that admission during one of her hospital outpatient visits for her breast cancer treatment. She was in remission at the time and was on one of her follow up appointments. What struck me at that time and what I remember was this was one of the first instances of a survivor of one of these life-threatening major illnesses that I had met, and spent time with. Even though it was a different type of cancer, hearing her going on with her life in spite of what she had gone through was very, very inspiring for me. Funny, Rene still gently pushes me to expand the way I view myself and what I can do and endure, by encouraging me to run.
During this time I also recall my brother Terry being there, and staying with me overnight in the hospital several times. Terry was at the time a very busy superintendent of schools in a small town in Central Texas (Abbott, Texas), and school had started up for the year. But he came out for me. I still am touched by this.
Terry was three years older than me, and growing up we had the same bedroom for several years. We fought and did the stuff brothers did, but I also remember him looking out for me, as a big brother does. Good to think he was still doing that all these years later.
I always felt bad that Terry never spent any time in the Bay Area and saw anything other than our condo and the hospital. And I was glad to be able to replace the Stanford baseball cap that he bought when he was at the hospital after he lost it at Six Flags. I’m really proud he was there.
After he left, I recall taking a turn for the worse.
More on the history of how I talked myself, or rather, let myself be talked, into running a marathon….
After finishing treatment in the summer of 2001, I was still on low dose chemotherapy and was still tired, roughly at about 75% of normal. I began volunteering for a Team in Training program, but as an honored patient, not as a participant.
I’ve thought of running a marathon with TNT for several seasons in the past couple of years as I got back to 100% health. I had really considered, told a few people, made a few plans. But I never could do it. I never thought I could finish it, with my travel commitments for work (I still have the same position, now as a manager, but with similar travel). Plus, I never thought I could finish mentally. What was holding me back was more a bit of confidence that I could complete it. Now, I have seen people of all shapes, sizes and abilities train over the years in TNT programs, and almost all finished their marathon. But that was others, not me. Yet another irony — some people when they go through a terrible life-threatening disease have a new appreciation for life, and attempt all sorts of things they never attempted before. For me, though, it didn’t work out that way.
I have other posts which go into detail about the reasons why I’m doing a marathon, from the perspective of the 5th year anniversary, the people I admire, and the need to raise funds. But from a purely athletic perspective, the reason I know I can do this now is a co-worker at AIG, Rene McGillicuddy.
Rene is another consultant from another division in AIG who I’ve known for years. She also has faced a similar health challenge that she’s overcome. After, she began running triathlons, having completed a few sprint distance triathlons. We were talking about her athletic experiences, and I mentioned my desire to eventually train and finish a marathon. She immediately told me I could, and encouraged me. Not just verbal — she has begun running with me after work, pushing me to run farther. Our runs on Marina Green towards the Golden Gate Bridge on afternoons are a great treat.
Since we began running last fall, I have gone from just being able to run a few minutes without stopping, to, as of last Saturday, January 20, I ran five miles. I have never run five miles in my life, but it seemed easy, the right thing to do. In a casual conversation recently Rene, without thinking about it, said “Gregg, you’re pretty athletic, and ….” I don’t recall the remainder of the sentence or the point. But I was honored to think someone would consider me something of an “athlete.” But that’s what you call someone who runs five miles, right?
I have thoroughly enjoyed running with Rene, and now feel fantastic when I run, just incredible. I now know that finishing a marathon is quite doable, and it will be done, even if at my own slow pace. There will be lots of people who will help me finish the marathon, but I can say that it was Rene who first got me to really understand I can run, and got me to understand the fantastic way you feel when you run.