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I’m going to go ahead and call myself a runner. In truth I both run and walk. Some runners would say that this doesn’t make me a true runner. In the end, it doesn’t matter because I still get across the finish line. Once I put my mind to starting a race, I will finish it even if it means I may have to crawl or be dragged. There are many who finish before me and some that finish after me. It humbles me. But I remember to be happy since there was a time I was told my future might be the physical inability to do so.

You see I have a habit of letting “can’t” get in the way. I told myself, “I can’t” for many things and many times in my life. I let people tell me “can’t” and I believed them. It was when I finally took up running for the umpteenth time in 2009 that I learned that “can’t” needed to be removed from my knee-jerk reaction list. I was very sick in 2009. I was being seen by several neurologists. I had numbness and tingling down the left side of my body. The thought was I had multiple sclerosis. I was scared out of my wits. Thankfully it was my neurologist, Dr. Snyder that told me the MRIs and other tests were negative. However, he couldn’t explain my symptoms. He and his nurse practitioner told me I had to keep moving. Several friends encouraged me to give run/walking another chance; to take it slow this time. I swallowed my fear of being the slowest person on the road and I shut out the voice of “can’t” get past a mile running through my head. I kept at it and actually started enjoying myself more often than not. I was afraid of a future using a cane or worse, a wheelchair. The doctor noticed I was doing better and wanted to know what I was doing. I told him about run/walking. He grabbed his prescription pad, wrote something and handed it to me. It read, “Go run a half marathon”. I responded with, you guessed it, a sentence with “can’t” in it. He responded, “Yes, you can. Doctor’s order!”

Man I hated him at that moment. It was to be the best thing a doctor ever did for me.

I kept at it. I built mileage slowly training with a Galloway group for beginners. I slacked off at times but I got back into training because I didn’t want that look of disappointment from my doctor. Some people thought I was crazy trying to start running at 40. I kept going and I felt stronger for it. I finished my first half marathon in February of 2010. The next day I moved back to Tampa from Jacksonville to return to graduate school a second time to study gerontology. The slow process of training for a half marathon and seeing I could do it had given me the confidence to change many other things in my life that year. It ended up playing a pivotal role in my life and the way I’ve viewed things since.

I’m coming off a year of injuries. I haven’t loved running as much this past year as a result. I even thought maybe my body just “can’t” do it anymore even if it stops the numbness from returning (oh, it’s still there). But then I remember all that I have done since 2009 despite first thinking “can’t”. I now know I can do so many things once I put my mind to it. I’m tougher than I realize. If I can endure the physical and mental pain I experience when I’m running long distances and I’ve been out on the course for 3 hours then I can at least try to tackle other things life throws my way.

I almost didn’t start my first 12 hour ultra race this past August. I went because I didn’t want the DNS (did not start) on my record. I went with several friends who helped me that day, told me I could. The running community is filled with great people who will hold you up when you need it most. My feet were a mess by the 5th lap (15 miles). I wanted so badly to quit. It was the only time “can’t” was to be used as a motivator. “You can’t quit now Linda. You’re halfway there to a medal!” It was one of the hardest and most painful days of my life so far. But with complete strangers, friends and new friends made out on the loop cheering me on, I made it through the 10th lap with 20 minutes to spare. If I could find it in me to finish that day, then I know I CAN do anything. Just watch me!

Link to inspirational photo