Monday, March 06, 2006

My Marathon, Part 1

I managed to reach my twelfth year of running without every entering so much as a local road race. This was partly due to the fact that I don’t enjoy running in crowds, but mainly because I hate to run in the morning, and just about every race takes place at an ungodly early hour. But whenever people find out that you’re a runner, the most common next question is, “Have you run a marathon?” This gets tiresome after awhile if in fact you have not. So when an acquaintance started bugging me to train for a marathon with her during my internship year, I eventually agreed.

Internship year of residency is not thought to be an ideal time to be doing something so time-consuming as training for a marathon; the job itself sucks up most of your free time. But I was already running a fair amount. I found it to be an ideal stress-reliever, and something I could do almost no matter how late I got home. I also used it to explore my new city. (Which worked well, except that I would then drastically underestimate how long it might take to walk someplace, resulting in a few annoyed acquaintances who just wanted to go out for a beer, dammit, not walk all the hell over Creation.) It didn’t seem like such a stretch to put a longer run in on my one day off a week. So I agreed, although secretly at first even I wondered if I would really follow through.

I’m a sucker for birth stories – funny, overdue, traumatic, last-minute – yet I don’t think my own is particularly interesting or enlightening.* But I do feel like I learned a lot from my marathon.

Lesson 1: I Accept that I Am Powerless Over Candy

I have had a bad candy habit since childhood. Not candy as in chocolate (which I consider food, not candy); candy as in as close to straight sugar as possible. I had to have it available at all times. It got me through many stressful periods in my life – like, say, internship. I didn't feel safe unless I had a stash in my pocket, like some starving beggar child from Dickens. I never hit the stuff before lunch, but from then on out was happy hour. I ruined my teeth. I didn’t get fat, but that was because I substituted candy for real food.

After about a month or so of training, I realized that I needed to improve my diet if I was really going to do a marathon. When I forced myself to think about it, probably half of my calories were in the form of refined sugar. But I knew I couldn’t cut down. I’d tried that before. No, I’d have to go cold turkey.

I set a quit date, finished the stuff I had lying around, and steeled myself.

It was baaaad. In the beginning, I thought about candy near-constantly. I was twitchy as a gerbil with Tourette’s. I had to take a circuitous route through the hospital to avoid the gift shop, where I often used to get a fix. I couldn’t go to drugstores either, which was inconvenient when I ran out of antiperspirant. But I did find that I suddenly had an appetite for real food again. And gradually, as the weeks went by, I thought about it less and less, and then hardly ever. It felt so freeing, not to have the shame anymore. And as a bonus, I became much more sympathetic toward people who had a hard time quitting smoking.

Lesson 2: I Can Make Friends When Forced To

The person who invited me to train with her was a resident in a different specialty. My initial impression of her had been slightly negative – she seemed a little, I don’t know, rigid? Unforgiving of faults in others? But running with someone is like taking a long car trip; it’s enforced togetherness, and conversation eventually happens. So it was that I learned that we had a great deal in common. Similar off-kilter type of upbringing; similar circuitous route to medical school; similar interest in the arts. She was even born the same week of the same year that I was. Soon we were hanging out all the time, talking on the phone, shopping. It was like the pictures I used to pore over in Seventeen magazine when I was thirteen and just wanted to be normal.

To be continued.

*It can be told pretty well in a single paragraph:
Water breaks at midnight. Husband freaks out despite being a doctor. Hospital, pitocin, epidural, blah blah blah. Weather channel on TV. Phone calls to wrap up loose ends at work. Sneaking a cappucino. Getting bored. Finally pushing and PUSHING and pushing and PUSHING. Baby’s heart rate dipping. Vacuum forceps, aka Baby Head Plunger, after 21 hours. Baby fine; unutterable relief. Embarrassed re: unable to birth 5 lb 14 oz baby without assistance (his head was big, I swear). Many many many stitches. The End.


Laura said...

but think about it....that's 5lb 14oz is something that never came out of that opening before! I have4 attended way too many deliveries in my 16 years of practice and I never tire of the birth stories, the daddies in their excitement/terror/bravado/squeamishness.
Some are scary, some are traumatic, brutal, exciting, fun but all are VERY special to me and I go out of my way as the "love nurse" as my colleagues refer to me to make it a celebration of a family.
BTW, I sneaked resse's peanut butter cups with my labors and silly me, always had to be TOLD by someone else that I was in labor. You think after a few time I would be able to tell! LOL My birth stories are in a sidebar in my blog
Good luck with the training. For me it is 100 mile bike races but I haven't done one in 4 years since my little man came into my life.
naaaahhhh! For now I'll stick to juggling, chasing kids and catching babies.

Orange said...

Part 2! Bring on Part 2! said...

Hee... as SOON as I realized my water had broken, I waddled off to the kitchen and ate a Clif Bar and a pear because I KNEW they wouldn't let me eat at the hospital.

I've always harbored a secret desire to be a runner. Maybe because I've watched too many action movies with Matt Damon racing sweatily around various foreign capitals... maybe because it just seems super-cool to have those kind of physical capabilities. Regardless, I'm incapable of running the three blocks to my train station in the morning without gasping and heaving, so I'm just going to have to develop awesome kung fu skills or something.

Anonymous said...

finally, a physician confirms my opinion that chocolate is indeed food. hooray!

when you get into serious training mode, remember that you can totally cave on the sugar cravings, and eat it as you run. i know this not from experience, but from the fact that my spouse has spent some serious cash on Gu during his training period. He says the best is french vanilla bean. The others can be a bit rank. Oh, and the other thing he said was bandaids on the old nipples (oh, i think that is if you are a boy).
Good Luck!

Mignon said...

Are you telling my birth story or yours? They're almost identical. And why does it takes such a hella long time to sew up a cooter? I swear Dr.P was down there for so long he was sewing a quilt.

I can't wait for part deux!

Anonymous said...

I ran my first marathon when I was a 1L at law school. It was a huge relief to have something that was NOT law school that was also important in my life.

During the next two years, I also competed in a triathlon and then busted my knee. Now I can hardly run, but I am trying every day!

Anonymous said...

I like your super short birth story.

I too am powerless over candy. It causes me serious problems. The funny thing about your remark about smoking is that cigarettes are the only thing I like more than candy. But when I quit cigarettes, I need candy but when I quit candy, I need cigarettes. Etc.

Unfortunately, perhaps from a lifetime of half my calories coming from candy (and maybe some medications I took) I cannot eat candy and not gain weight. I gain 5 lbs. in a week if I eat a bit of candy every day, 10 in about 10 days if I binge on candy. No matter how much I exercise, etc.

Did you ever read Candyfreak? I didn't read it but I read about it.

Pure sugar--as a child, I'd eat brown sugar out of the box. Honey by itself was also a favorite. Next best thing to pure sugar is dulce de leche. If there is no panderia I'll go for candy corn, sugar babies, red hots and lemon drops. Never liked chips, cookies, cakes, soda, french fries, etc all much. Too much between me and the pure gluose rush. But a packet of raw sugar? Yum.

Orange said...

Wow, ozma makes me look like a rank amateur in the sugar-eating department. I bow in respect.

I can't do my birth story in a paragraph that short, because then I'd be forced to omit the part that explains why the nurse gave me a latex glove filled with ice to place on my crotch. And while that's not, in the grand scheme of things, an important part of the birth story, it's too good to leave out. If only I knew where that photo was, I could scan it in and post it with my birth story...

Avery B said...

Helloo nice post