The Running Gauge: Why Running Is My Way to Tune Into My Health


Running has been part of my life since I was in kindergarten and took those first racing steps at my field day.  That days i fell in love with running.  It has been a constant in my life.  Through good times and bad ones, through boyfriends, breakups, deaths and births-- running has been my safe heaven.

So, it should not come to as surprise than in many ways running is my gauge when it comes to my health.  A lot of my well being is define by how I feel running.  Sounds crazy? Probably.  But think about it.  If you go for a run and your joints are hurting, you just know something is not right.  If you get fatigued in a way that just leaves you spent after only a few minutes at a moderate pace... and this happens more than a few times (and you are not over training), you know something is... off.  And I use "off" for a reason.  Well, let me begin at the start.

"This is Angie.  Angie is always unusually tired and stiff after her runs and so she always ends up sitting down on the ground.  Angie didn't push her doctor for the truth. Don't be like Angie.

For the past two years I have not been feeling well.  Actually even before that but the past two years I have really noticed it.  But prior to two years ago I was in the Army.  And let me be honest, whether you are a man or a woman-- complaining about aches and pains comes with the territory and if you really complain then you are THAT Soldier who is whinny.  But the whinny and "weak" label really takes a whole new level if you are a female. Let's call a spade a spade. And as an officer, the pressure is more to be hardcore.  We live by the "suck it up, buttercup!" mental motto.  I have an entire box full of my Army records; it has been recorded yet I have had doctors who brushed it off and many ways made me feel like I was imagining my ailments.  And it always came back to "I can tell when I run because..." and looking back I think they thought I was trying to get out of running when in reality it was the opposite.

I am not saying I was deathly ill. I just was not feeling healthy.  But after a while you just ignored it and when I did go to the doctor it was for minor things but never really address the feeling of unhealthiness I was having. Now fast forward to two weeks ago. Because I now have an awesome health insurance I was able to make appointments at Mayo Clinic.  Unfortunately TRICARE, what I had in the Army while good it was very restrictive on who I could see. Anyhow, I went to see internal medicine for an endocrinology referral and I got a two-hour physical. Don't get me wrong, I am so happy I did but it was not what I was expecting. And for the first time EVER a doctor actually listened to what I was saying. I could tell as we talked that she was digesting the information I was giving her.

Eight tubes of blood and others test the results came back. I was so nervous. What if something was terribly wrong? Turns out that while nothing is terribly wrong at the moment I do have some serious issues going on. Here is quick list of what's happening so you have an idea of why I am unhealthy:

  • My thyroid levels are off the chart... even though I don't have a thyroid.
  • My cholesterol is through the roof.
  • I have arthritis on my right knee. Thank you for this one, Army!
  • I have a gastrointestinal bacteria that can cause ulcers.  Let me stop right here for a moment because at a race when I lived in Kansas 4 years ago I had a bunch of stomach issues and the doctor told me it was just heartburn.  Since then I have had stomach problems.  And not once did any of the docs treated me for this bacteria.
  • And I also have thoracolumbar dextroscoliosis... basically I have a type of scoliosis plus degenerative disk disorder.  

Yes, I am a freaking mess!  But you know what?  I now know that I was not imagining things.  The Army broke me down. Broke me bad. My body is a mess but we now have a plan of action and I could cry with happiness.  So I keep pushing and keep on running.  Not only because I love it because I owe these discoveries to running. This plan of action to address the medical issues has me feeling like I am have a some control over my health. I look forward to continued improvement of my health but especially my running. And even with all that needs to happen, I tell you what-- I am a happy girl.  Because at the end of the day I am alive and I am able to run.  And that is always great news.

Tell me, has running been in some ways, a gauge of your total well-being?

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