Running through Adversity

Years ago, honing my trail runner vibe, I decided to embrace adverse running conditions. My first run on the Gettysburg horse trail, a six-mile wooded loop around the Gettysburg Battlefield, happened during hurricane Sandy. My work, a YWCA, closed early that day. President Obama came on TV and told businesses to act responsibly. “Don’t add needless rescues to the first responders’ docket,” he said, “get your employees home early.” I missed my workout; I needed something to do.

It might be overkill to call Sandy a hurricane. Sure, she trashed Coney Island and Rockaway Beach, but in the middle of Pennsylvania, we just got a wet and windy storm. I’m sure Susan suggested that running through the woods during a hurricane seemed unwise, but in 2012, my OCD was raging. Once I made a decision, that decision was made. I ran five-miles through ankle deep water keeping my eyes peeled for falling trees.

Since 2012, I’ve run one-hundred-degree Saturday afternoons, fifteen-degree Sunday mornings, braved negative wind chills, storms, humidity, slush, burning sand, and thigh-deep snow. The one adverse condition I shy away from is injury. I take that seriously. I let myself heal.

I’m coming off a two-year running break due to chronic Plantar Fasciitis. Actually, I’ve been “back” for over a year, but getting my mileage back has been hard. I aged during that break. At this point every run feels adverse. I have a high mileage mindset and a low mileage body. I can run ten miles, and I do, but wow, is it hard.

Today I turned fifty-seven. I used my boss’ birthday goodwill to slip out early for a run.  By three-thirty I stood at the trailhead throwing my fleece in the car. I squeezed my hand through the strap of my hand-held water bottle, and I trotted off into the woods. This is where the adversity began.

It’s been a pleasant summer. There was a hot spell in July, but all during the spring and late summer we posted relatively cool temperatures. No adversity there. My problem is nutrition. Not long ago, in the middle of a run, walking up a gently sloping grade, I wondered what the hell is wrong with me. I should have been killing the run. Instead the run was killing me. My adverse situation was my diet for the day. Two donuts for breakfast; a Whopper and fries for lunch; two Pop Tarts for calories before the run. I couldn’t run because I was full of crap. Back at home, sweating streaks down my spine for the next two hours, I vowed to do better.

Today, my birthday, I treated myself to a couple of slices of Brother’s Pizza. If Gettysburg has a decent approximation of New York pizza, Brother’s is it. Soft, chewy crust, and gooey, ample cheese. It’s exactly what my doctor told me to avoid. My cholesterol has been high my entire adult life. For years, he let me slide because as a spin instructor, I got so much exercise, my HDL level (known as the ‘good’ cholesterol) was through the roof. I stopped teaching spin classes two years ago, and my HDL has crept down ever since. My last blood test raised a flag. Suddenly I need to start watching my diet.

Around one o’clock today, my coworker Wanda came in to my office with a birthday treat–a Dairy Queen Blizzard. I get a Blizzard about once a month, and I always buy the kids’ size. This always satisfies my Blizzard craving, and it’s not big enough to worry about the cholesterol. Today, Wanda got me a large. A friend once compared me to a rodent. She said if something was put in front of me, I’d eat it. Today, I guess I proved that point. I’ve never eaten a large Blizzard before and I probably won’t again. But as I snarfed that baby down, here’s what I was thinking: I’m already going running, I’ll just run a little farther.

Can the cholesterol you eat during the day turn into an immediate heart attack or stroke? This is what I pondered during my seventy-minute run. That ice cream and cheese was clogging up my veins. Every time things got difficult, a hill, a rock garden, a head wind, I got dizzy. I got breathless. My fingers tingled. Adversity! I thought about the irony of dying on a run on my birthday, and I plodded on. I concentrated on deep breaths, I drank my whole bottle of water, and I completed my run alive.

A birthday is a good day to set a resolution. I’m not a kid any more. I can’t fuel on Burger King and Dunkin Donuts, pizza and Pop Tarts. My diet is so sucky, it’s scaring me on runs. I’ll start tomorrow with oatmeal and fruit, and things will get better from there. Of course, there’s still a half a DQ cake in the freezer. Oh, and that cookout Saturday night.

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33 thoughts on “Running through Adversity

  1. A kindred spirit! Happy birthday! And good on you for getting out there, run after run, no matter how you feel, no matter the shit-talk running through your head, no matter that you inhaled an entire Blizzard. (I’m grateful there’s not a Dairy Queen within miles of me because I don’t think I could resist Heath Bar Blizzards.) One foot in front of the other, no matter the pace or distance, that’s what matters and what will soothe what ails you. Keep running, keep inspiring, Jeff!

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  2. Happy birthday! Sounds like it was a good one and an eye opening one. I’ve told you before that I lost a lot of weight 7-8 years ago. Took me a whole year to do it – and since I never wanted to see any of that weight again, my diet has always been a major focus. Unfortunately, 10 ish plus pounds came back that I can’t get rid of. But I think I always fueled wrong. Eat less, run more was my go to. My body figured it out and I think the stupid 10 are here to stay. In the past 7 years I developed a dairy intolerance and gluten sensitivity. I developed allergies I never had before to stuff outside. I just think it’s crazy how our bodies adapt and change. But I listened. I stopped eating dairy and gluten and use allergy meds in the spring. Crazy. I think you heard your body speaking and you can do this. Good luck and again, happy birthday!


    • I’m sure you’re like me, even “10 pounds overweight” everyone complains that you’re too skinny. About 5 months ago we got a scale. I found out that I was carrying 18 pounds more than I was at my last marathon. I’ve knocked off 8 of those pounds and I might want to go 3 pounds lighter. I guess I’m pretty lucky. In my thirties some dairy sensitivities formed, but no so much that I don’t still eat pizza and ice cream and creamer in my coffee. Other than that really nothing else is a problem. Even my seasonal allergies have mostly gone away. Now I just need to get my labs right.

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  3. Aging is sometimes startling! It got me right when I turned 40, things that were always fine suddenly broke 🙂. I got sciatica, eczema, weight gain, more allergies, yikes! I’ve decided to try walking exercise dvds so I don’t get injured. I know it sounds so lame 🙂 but I’m taking it easy nowadays. Happy Birthday Jeff! 🎂


  4. Happy birthday Jeff!! I have had plantar F. In the past too. The only thing I could find to help were these things called “foot wakers”. You can get them on amazon. I had it for a year and tried everything – these were the only things that helped. I travel with em and use them when I feel it coming on. They essentially help stretch out your feet and calves. Banana cream pie blizzards are my favorite 😊😊


    • Fortunately, where I live, trails are abundant. Obviously urban centers don’t have the same benefit. I’m something of a baby when I’m cold these day. I’m trying to toughen myself up again.


  5. Hi Jeff,

    I do a good amount of running and I’ve been dealing with some achillies issues along with some plantar issues. I purchased a sock from a local running store that keeps my foot flexed upward at night, and that does wonders for both of my issues. You can also just buy a full boot to keep the foot flexed at night. I’d recommend looking into it!


  6. I hear you about eating whatever’s in front of you. As a runner, my mentality used to be “if you burn the furnace hot enough, you can digest anything,” but I just can’t churn out runs on a quarter pounder like I used to.

    Cheers on your pursuit of adversity!

    Liked by 1 person

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