Survive an attack, register for a marathon

Makes sense to me…… Get really sick, spend time in the hospital, come home exhausted and depressed, and then immediately sign up to do a 26.2 mile foot race. But then again I’m probably not your typical chronic lunger.

After finishing my 8th marathon back in 2011, I had basically shrugged off the notion of ever attempting to do another. I mean, what would be the point.. right? I had trained hard and walked my ass off for the past 7 years trying to do what few people with severe lung disease had ever done. I exceeded in that endeavor and have a wall full of shiny medals to prove it. Heck, I even managed to set some records(obviously not speed records). But in the summer of 2014 something changed. After spending a week in the hospital on ventilator and surviving a near fatal attack, I went home and signed up to do my 9th marathon.
Well, pretty much the same thing happened this year, except that the exacerbation and subsequent hospitalization came a month earlier in the year, so I figured what the heck, I have an extra month to prepare. I did #9 last year, I’ll do #10 this year. Besides, 10 is a nice round number.

But back to the title of this post. Why all of a sudden the desire to want to torture myself by training for yet another race ( and yes it’s torture), and why do so immediately following a really bad attack?

I dont know for sure, but maybe its because when you suffer through one of these really bad attacks it brings you face to face with just how ugly and life sucking this disease really is. For me, defying the odds by bouncing back from a bad exacerbation as quickly as possible and then setting my sights on doing something that’s as physical as a 26 mile walk, is nothing short of sweet revenge. It’s payback time for a disease that’s made a good chunk of my life a living hell.

Might sound like a contradiction or even denial, but when I’m training or studying for something, no matter how grueling the process, I feel like Im actually living my life free of disease. My asthma is still there, but it’s not part of the equation. Starting a new adventure is my way of rebooting, of starting over clean. Working towards, what at times can be seem like an unrealistic goal, is exactly the kind of challenge I need to keep me going in an otherwise predictable and endless cycle of asthma exacerbations and recoveries. The fact that this current goal is physically demanding makes any victory that much sweeter. And while doing the actual marathon is exciting, the race itself is just a test of sorts. Crossing that finish line is graduation day and the medal is the diploma.

The real satisfaction for me comes during the build up of training when I know Ive done all I can with the messed up lungs I was given. I also know that there are very few people in the world with equivalent lung function, who can do what I do, and in a good way that kinda makes me feel like a Im part of a special club. A club that includes people like Russell Windwood.

Russell has severe COPD and yet he’s completed an Ironman Triathlon, which not only includes a 26.2 mile marathon, but also a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride. I cant run a 100 meters, let alone do all these other feats back to back, so Russell’s accomplishment in these type of events blows me a way. I don’t know how the heck he’s able to do it, but we obviously share a rare trait…. a determination to overcome perceived limitations. To break free from all the medical labels and take matters into our own hands. (In November Russell will also be running the New York marathon, cheer him on).

Then there’s my friend Mike Mc Bride who did the Boston marathon with me in 2009 and who is another example of an extraordinary human being who worked with what he had to achieve his dream. He trekked 26.2 mile hauling his own oxygen tanks.

I’ll have more specifics about this particular adventure as my training date commences sometime in Mid July. But a few things that will set this race apart from last year, is that I will be doing it with a couple friends. One is an Emergency medicine Physician and the other a trauma Nurse. Along with a talented engineering team, they formed a new company called Blowfish and are developing exciting new asthma monitoring tools.

As Im finishing the last paragraph of this post, it occurs to me that Im still very short of breath from this last flare. Im so sleep deprived I can’t think straight, and the other side effects from steroids (namely constant and excruciating muscle spasms) are wearing me down mentally. Yet, I still want to get out there and do another marathon. Truth is, the really nasty flares can take a lot out of you, but in the long run they also toughen you up. If you can get through a really bad attack, you can probably train to walk a marathon.

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7 thoughts on “Survive an attack, register for a marathon

  1. Just plain cussed. Stunning stuff, Stephen. Me? “A wee timorous beastie.” Maybe…. Maybe…. One day?
    Love, all best wishes, and more amazing power to your labouring lungs.
    Kowardly Kate x

    1. “A wee timorous beastie” Haha, I love how you talk.

      You don’t have to do an entire marathon to get even with asthma. Just doing an extra 30 minutes of cardio everyday is more than enough 🙂

  2. I think we all have our own internal “get back at asthma” goals. I just spent 2 weeks going on short hikes in the desert southwest. Personal victory – I didn’t have to use my inhaler or neb once, even hiking at 7000 feet. Now I’m wondering if I’m ready to do even more.

  3. Like I said on Facebook, “typical Steve” ;).
    But the fact that you’re slightly crazy is probably why we get along so well. 🙂 Now, feel better and get out there and voluntarily torture yourself (lol…). Good thing California is pretty :D.

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