In 2015, I ran the race of my life—the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I didn’t realize it then, but it may have been my last race. My ankle started bothering me when I was training for the race—the same ankle I injured years ago, a really bad sprain that took a year to heal. During training, pain returned. And it never went away.
I saw an ankle specialist who diagnosed me with chronic ankle tendonitis. He said that although surgery could be an option and might give me temporary relief, the fact is that my ultimate underlying problem would still be there. That problem is CMT. The structure of my foot is altered, and my ankle muscles are weak. As a result, I have tendonitis and pain. But this hasn’t stopped me from trying to stay active and healthy.
I started 2016 thinking this might be the last year I run races. I signed up for the Princess 10K at Disney in February, and I am a part of a relay team doing the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon in August.
Doing a race at Disney is always risky for a slow runner. They have cut-off times and enforce them with runners wearing balloons (the balloon ladies) who run at the back of the pack. If you fall behind the balloon ladies, you might get swept off the course, officially not permitted to finish.
I was lucky at the 2015 Princess Half Marathon. Jude Burton, another runner with CMT, ran with me. Jude kept me focused on finishing and helped me keep the negative voices out of my head. You know those voices. The ones that tell you to quit, that you are too slow, that you can’t do it. I am eternally grateful to her and proud that I finished my dream race.
But the 2016 10K was a different story. I lined up to start the race—and it was freezing. I was nervous and by the time I started I couldn’t feel my feet. By the second mile, the balloon ladies had caught up with me, and by 2.75 miles I was taken off the course.
Not finishing a race is hard. It’s hard not to feel like I failed and when people tell me that I am strong and brave for even starting, I get angry. Sure, I fight my injuries and go out and train and get it done. I register for and start races. Most people would never do these things. But the people who tell me that I am strong and brave don’t understand life with CMT. This is what it’s all about.
I know that there is currently no cure for CMT. That said, I want to always remain active and ready for a treatment when it comes, whether through running, swimming, spinning, Pilates or weight training. I know everything is adaptable in some way and there are a ton of ways to push and challenge myself. I also know that my failures, setbacks and challenges drive me.
What will my next goal be? I’m not sure. I am going to take a break and figure out where I am going and how I will get there. Maybe it’s time for me to try to conquer one of my oldest goals.
Maybe it’s time for me to learn how to ride a bike.
Cynthia is a photographer specializing in maternity, newborn, baby and family photography (www.cynlawrence.com). She has two amazing kids (ages 7 and 5) and a husband who keep her extremely busy. In her free time, she tries to sew, knit and paint. She is a member of the South Florida CMTA Branch and moderator of the CMTAthletes Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/cmtathletes/). And she loves college football.