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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The coward in all of us

Alberto  Salazar, winner of three consecutive New York Marathons and the 1982 Boston Marathon  once said  "I have the same doubts as everyone." "Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards."

I would never had thought a world class runner would feel the same fear, I feel as a middle of the pack particpant.

In a little over two weeks I will line up at the starting line for the Madison Marathon.  I will wonder if I did the right training, Did I run long enough?  Did I push enough in my tempo runs?  Did I take enough rest days? Did I do the right cross training?  Did I eat the right stuff.  Did I race enough?  Did I push myself too much? Will I make it? Can I handle the pain and fatigue I know will be my friend for a large part of the race?

A thousand questions will cross my mind.  I never dreamed every runner toeing the line has the same doubts and fears. My fear won't be of the unknown because I have run and finished four marathons. I know the physical endurance and mental toughness that's needed to finish.  I will wonder if I am up to it one more time.  I've baled at the half way point twice at Madison. Will I quit? Will I take the easy way out? 

I have a built in excuse to quit with my CMT.  I will wonder how my feet will hold up.  My first marathon my feet blistered so bad they bled through my shoes.  The pain from my quads was intense.  The CMT means I don't have enough flexability in my calves to walk decently much less run.  I changed my running gait this year because I as running on my toes. I  switched to landing on my heels and rolling up in the hope to have a more efficient and pain free run.  Now I have sore and tired hamstrings. How will they hold up on race day?  Will the change work.  I won't know until I run the race.

The race is 26 miles. Twenty six miles is a long way to drive much less run.  Will I have the energy to run the entire race?  It has been 10 years since I ran my last marathon and I am not sure what to expect once I get past the half way point. Will I make it?  At this point I don't know.
Another member of Team CMT  is running the half marathon on the same day.  She likes to know every twist, turn and elevation on the couse. She let me know the first half  is hilly and there is a large hill in the  last mile of the marathon. Me, I like to be surprised. It keeps the experience interesting. Now I will worry about that last mile for the next two weeks and for the entire race.
I also have the added pressure and expectations of being part of Team CMT. Everyone who knows me will want to know about the race.  But this expreience is  no longer about me. My fears and challenges do not matter. My goal is no longer a personal best time or a medal. those are out of reach anyway. The goal  now is to raise awareness of CMT. I have a bigger purpose and goal to drive me to the finish line. I have to prove to the Boston Athletic Association I can run a marathon in 6 hours to qualify for the mobility impaired division. Strangely that does not lessen the pressure or fear. To be accepted to Boston will mean a huge stage for raising awareness of CMT. I run for all those with CMT that can't. I run so when they tell someone they have CMT they don't get a blank look.  Imagine having a disease that slowly make you lose the use or your hands or legs and know one has ever heard of it. I run for all of us with CMT. I run because it's a miracle I can run at all.

I have one chance to prove myself after 18 weeks of training to qualify. I'm going to give it my best shot despite every fear and limitiation.  Along with the  fear and limitiations I also have an insane stuborness and determination. I will do whatever it takes to get there. See you at the finish line!

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have almost 100 members in 17 states. If you wish to join us visit our web site.

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

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