Welcome to week one of a weekly multi-part series on my journey to run and complete the Los Angeles Marathon. I decided just after the New Year that I was going to train, run, and complete the 26.2 mile pavement course from Dodger Stadium to the “Sea,” which culminates in Santa Monica, CA. In just shy of 3-months of training, on March 18th, 2018, I will make my marathon debut!
So why do it? My journey was created to inspire and motivate a community of warriors and fighters; some who are physically unable to walk, get out bed or let alone run a single mile. This community of amazing individuals who fight daily to grasp for cups or pens as their fingers have started to curl due to a connective tissue disease that is slowly turning them into stone. A community of fighters that have trouble catching their breath walking up a flight of stairs because Scleroderma has found its way into their lungs, causing pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. My desire to run was in an effort to bring hope to this community; to show others with the same condition as me that even though you may not be able to run a marathon, you are more than just a disease. I want to inspire movement, I want to inspire others to rise up and live life to the best of their ability, to face adversity, and kick it in its teeth.
As Scleroderma patients, people who have autoimmune or other chronic illnesses, we so often fall prey to being defined by the disease we have. At times, the weakness and stiffness those afflicted with autoimmunity have hold us back from living, moving, and thriving in the manners in which we’d like. We succumb to the voice inside our head telling us to lay down, sit on the couch, or skip our workout. And I get it. I get railroaded by exhaustion and pain too, but I am trying everyday to fight it in an effort to fight for myself.
We are frightened by our mortality. Believe me I know, I have shed many tears and shared my thoughts with those around me.
The truth is, my journey honestly scares me. I too wake up in the morning, tired, stiff and uncomfortable. I have gone on 2, 3 and 5 mile runs where my knees ache and my muscles fatigue just as my foot hits the pavement on step number one. I am worried and nervous that this odyssey in which I have so eagerly embarked upon could quickly come to an end. And not because of my mind, but because my ever deteriorating body will sideline me.
I have always been an athlete; I wrestled in college, played soccer in high school, and enjoy doing fitness related things. The last time I really did something that was a true test of an athlete’s mind and will was about 4 years ago. It was when I completed the Napa Ragner Relay Race with my then girlfriend and now wife, Arielle. Over the course of three legs that I ran, each spanning over 24 hours, on a team of 11 other people, I ran a total of 17 miles. Not only did I do well, I crushed my distances in mile paces less than 8 minutes, ultimately earning the admiration of Arielle.
Oh boy, did that 24-hour ordeal hurt at times. Little did I know that at this time my body was already slowly beginning to attack itself because of Scleroderma (which at the time I had yet to be diagnosed). As the next few years went on, my hands and joints began to show signs of the disease. It wasn’t until April of 2017 that my rheumatologist confirmed my diagnosis. Now as my wife pushes me to go to the gym, I often opt out due to my lethargy and tightness in my skin and body, thereby giving in to my autoimmunity.
This journey, while it is in an effort to motivate and inspire others to stay or become more active, it is also a way to educate and inform others about Scleroderma and to raise money for the Southern California Scleroderma Foundation. But that is not all. This is also for me. It is a chance for me to prove to myself that I am more than this illness. I am a fighter, I am a warrior, I am an athlete, and most of all I am Scleroderma.
Please join me over the next two months as I share my successes and my failures right here in my blog.
Better yet, learn more about this rare illness, and if you feel so inclined donate to my fundraising page to help bring patient support, advocacy and other resources to so many brave warriors in this community.