by Lara Horst
“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.” -George Sheehan
Freezing hot & roasting cold, I was delirious with fever. I could not sleep nor could I stay awake. I lay quarantined in my bedroom with my eyes closed wishing sleep would come. Hoping that the hours and days would pass and health would return to me. I found solace in Audible and as I struggled to breath, I listened to “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. I found myself on my own “Mount Everest”, deep in full-blown double pneumonia. Each movement, each breath, was a challenge. I wondered what my next step should be, if I would even have a next step, how to safely maneuver through this illness and back to my family, my body and my life? After “Into Thin Air”, I listened to several other books by Jon Krakauer and others before finally stumbling onto “My Year of Running Dangerously” by Tom Foreman.
There have been a handful of times throughout my life when I decided that I was going to become a runner. Usually this goal surrounded weight loss and the desire to look good. Frequently, I would find myself in a shoe store searching for a new pair of running shoes. The desire to run would leave almost as quickly as the goal had arrived. I would eventually find that pair of running shoes discarded in a forgotten corner of my closet and they would end up in a donation pile. At this point, I typically reminded myself not to do that again, not to waste my time or money on trying to run. Every failed attempt to become a runner let my stories solidify into truth. I am not a runner. I am slow. I am bad at this. I cannot do it. I am not supposed to do this. I run weird. I have flat feet. I do not look like a runner. I am not thin enough. I am not tall enough. My knees cannot handle it. I am not a runner. That was my cycle. And as I languished in my bed drenched in sweat, foggy with fever, I was certainly farther from being a runner than every before.
Yet, as I listened to Tom’s book, something inside me shifted. As I lay hacking, coughing and often choking, barely able to speak without losing my breath, I decided I was going to run. I saw Tom’s success as my success. I saw myself recreating in my own life what he did for himself. I dreamed about running a marathon and maybe even an ultra. I had no idea how I was going to do it but my pneumonia gave me the space to dream, to believe, the want and the need to run. After listening to “My Year of Running Dangerously”, Audible kindly recommended “Running with the Kenyans” by Adharanand Finn. It was during this book, that I discovered how I would revamp my running style and form. I thought, maybe things would be different if my form was different. I decided then, that I would change from a heel strike runner to a mid-foot/forefront runner. I knew that I was going to have to start from below zero so I might as well give it a go. My running really began flat on my back, in bed, envisioning how I was going to run.
Four months later (with no actual running under my belt), I walked into Independence Run & Hike for Ladies Night. I went a bit out of curiosity and to take a step towards actually running. Elinor Fish, of Run Wild Retreats, greeted me at the door and I told her yet again how I wanted to attend one of her retreats. Barely out of the woods from the pneumonia, I was not sure if a retreat was realistic for me but I picked up the literature anyway. There was a pull that I could not shake. The idea of the retreat marinated deep within me. I knew intellectually that I needed cardio to rehabilitate my lungs but I was not thrilled about the prospect of actually doing it. Finally, I voiced my idea to Carolyn Parker, my outcome based athletic trainer and friend, and quietly asked “do you think I could run 5-7 miles by the end of October? Is that realistic for me given um my circumstances?” I did not want to place a deposit for a slot if I was still delirious. Carolyn gave me one of her classic and brutally honest answers: “Yes, IF you do NOT overload your schedule with other things.” (Totally something I normally do). Later that day, I signed up and grabbed one of the last slots for the Moab Mindful Running Retreat. Instantly, the reality hit—I was ACTUALLY going to HAVE to RUN. YIKES! (cue music—freak out!) The Moab Mindful Running Retreat was my big golden ticket to recovery, my carrot, my bait, my reward… now I was going to have to do the work and get from flat on my back to running.
Back to Independence Run and Hike for shoes and big splurge on a Garmin. The little voice inside my head tried to shame me—that is a lot of money to spend and you can barely walk. What makes you so sure that this time will be any different. However, this time, I had my WHY. I knew that my health was of utmost priority. I needed and wanted to be healthy so that I could be with my family, my community and thrive.
And then, I ran. It was awful. It was excruciating. I could barely breath and there was a lot of hacking, a lot of anguish and a lot of pain. I knew that I should not run straight but other than that and attempting to change my form, I was clueless. Two “runs” in and I was alone with 5-7 miles to earn in 5 months. In hindsight, I am so glad I signed up for the retreat BEFORE I tried to run!
Instead of throwing in the towel, I reached out for help. I wrote this email to my former Davidson Women’s Tennis teammate and friend Kelly Fillnow, now CEO/Coach at Fillnow Coaching AND Professional Triathlete Ironman and ALL AROUND Certifiable Bad***:
I am ready for some long distance coaching :))) To sum up recent events—I had a BAD winter—REALLY BAD PNEUMONIA… SO I am basically starting from scratch. Right now I am unable to consecutively run a mile… I have to walk/run/walk … my lungs are in recovery, as well as my overall endurance. I was sick from the end of January through Mid-April. I train with a certified Gym Jones trainer and I am seeing a Naturopath.
My first goal is a solid 3 mile run… this is in preparation for being able to complete 7 miles for a running retreat I want to do at the end of October… Also there are some great trail runs out here and I’d like to do an official “event” next year, 2017… I’m contemplating a 1/2 marathon as my long-term goal, like the Snowmass Golden Leaf or the Aspen Valley Marathon…
Let me know if you can fit me into your busy schedule!
Lots of love,
I felt so vulnerable and exposed, nervous to even write those goals, and even more so to send them…BUT Kelly said YES!!! And just like that, I had a Coach and she had a plan.
With that we were off and “running”… well, not exactly. My first workout was walking really: instructionsàDo the 1.0 mile Trail by your house today! Warm up walking easy for 10 minutes. Then Speed walk 6 minutes, run 1 minute. Then, do this for 2 straight miles. Make sure when you run, you don’t sprint. Just slowly increase into a jog. Try to keep your heart rate around the same as when you are speed walking.
However, instead of simply flailing around aimlessly by myself, miserable with negative self-talk, I found myself with direction, purpose and most importantly support. The workouts Kelly built for me gave me what I needed most—success exactly where I was in THAT moment and the confidence, drive and moxie to continue. Watch out—I am now swimming and certifiable.
Here are the Highlights from my Pneumonia Run:
July 30th 2016: FIRST EVER proper FOOT RACE (4 miles)
September 5th: the “Labor” Day Ride—30 miles on the bike
September 10th: Bagged my first 14er by summiting Mount Elbert (Highest Peak in Colorado, 12 miles round trip, 5,249 vertical gain, 14,443 feet) Kelly did say to “find elevation” 😉
September 18th: 12.5K Quarry Climb
October 27th—30th: Moab Mindful Running Retreat
Fisher Towers—favorite trail run