I was out of shape, got winded easily, and it just plain hurt. I would bribe myself with new workout gear, or new songs to listen to on my iPod, or a change of scenery - knowing that no matter how I got to that point, all that mattered was that I ended up there. I needed to be motivated to work out, because there was no turning back - I had signed myself up for my first half-marathon.
Running on a treadmill at my old gym was tolerable. The times I switched to outdoor running were quite unpleasant. Cement just doesn't have a lot of give, and there wasn't a place to stash glucose tabs, Jim, and a water bottle. Instead, I got to wear what amounted to a fanny pack. Sexy!
On the longer runs I did outdoors, I found that my music alone wasn't sufficing. I felt miserable, and tired, and even my trusty playlist of T.I., Jay-Z, and Lil' Wayne couldn't keep me going. This would inevitably also be the point at which I was furthest away from home. I wanted to complain. I wanted to cry. I wanted to give up. No one could do this for me - I had to do it. And I had to do it alone.
Or did I?
For reasons I hope do not indicate insanity, my outdoor jaunts started to include an imaginary man running with me. Was it Jesus? God? The Dude? Forrest Gump? I'm not sure; I never pictured a face. I just daydreamed someone who could be there with me, every step of the way, through this gruelling journey. He was wearing the same stupid fanny pack I was, and he had it stocked with glucose tabs for me, in case I needed more. He'd ask me how I felt, and encourage me to not give up. When he saw me get tired, he'd slow down with me until I was ready to go fast again. And when I felt as though I couldn't push anymore, he'd cheerily call out "You can do it, Kim! You can do anything!", and we'd keep moving.
I had sort of forgotten about my Imaginary Running Friend. It occurs to me now that he never really left me; in fact, he's been around for quite a while. He's there on Twitter, when I talk about having a crappy diabetes day. He's there on Juvenation, enticing me to have a reason to post to the "What was your last blood sugar?" thread. He's speaking through a friend who asks me to tell them about the diabetes advocacy I'm doing, and then actually listens to all of it, and is excited for me. And he's there in all of you, when you post here and keep me engaged and entertained.
Every time I sign up to do something new to help our diabetes community (online or offline), I have a moment of wondering if I'm taking on too much. Will I have time to do this new thing in the manner I think it deserves to be done? Will it make a difference? What I'm learning is that each opportunity brings me a sense of fulfillment and belonging that I'd never otherwise experience, and if for only that, I need to keep going. It's a selfish sort of philanthropy.
I wanted to say thank you, Imaginary Friends. This journey sucks a lot less when you're all running the same race beside me.
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