A Pair of Shoes and an Open Road

By Fellow Rogue: Jordan Dodds

 

Running, one might say, is basically an absurd past-time upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning, in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you will be able to find meaning in another absurd past-time: Life.”  – Bill Bowerman

Life is an ever-changing experience. You have childhood, high school … hood, and adulthood. The thing that’s always been there for me is running. I’ve been a runner in some form or fashion my whole life. I played competitive soccer from childhood to high school … hood. My mom wanted me to like ballet but after the third week or so I got in the car after practice and told her I wanted to do something where I wear cleats. I grew up with my older brother who I am very close to and always wanted to be one of the guys.  I played competitive volleyball through high school but would always enjoy running with my dad after dinner or running during the off-season. My teammates thought it was crazy that I would run for fun and the track coaches always asked me to join the team. I would always decline the offer because to me, running was an escape, not an area I wanted to be competitive in. For me, it was simpler than that. It was a pair of shoes and an open road.

When I got to UT for college, running became my stress reliever. I started adding on the miles. Whenever I was lonely, I’d go out for a run. Running was my sense of control in a time where life seemed very out of control. I started to realize I was pretty good at this running thing. My Uncle Jack is a marathoner and life long runner who lives in Manhattan. We started to reconnect through running and would participate in races together. I started to think…maybe races aren’t too bad. I ran the Austin Marathon in 2009 with James when we were engaged as our first marathon together and as a metaphor for marriage. We then joined Rogue the next year and running become further engrained in my life.  

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I started work in 2009 as a nurse on the night shift at Seton Main. Working the night shift is very lonely. You wake up in the afternoon and everyone else is at work. During

Image that time I thought, I might as well run. Running was, again, my sense of control. It balanced my hormones and my depression. It was a chance to get some Vitamin D and gave me a sense of accomplishment and value. As a new RN, you go to work in fear the first couple of years on the job. You ask yourself, “Is my patient going to code tonight? Will I know what to do? Will I have to call and wake the doctor?” Everything was stressful except running. I felt like an idiot at work but a pro at running. I started getting faster, I would set a goal and reach it, I made amazing friends, I qualified for Boston, I ran Boston, I celebrated in Boston, I bought shirts and bags in Boston, and I PR’d in every marathon I raced since Boston. I started to realize…I’m not too shabby at this running thing. I was handling all my workouts and stacking up the miles. I ran the Dallas White Rock Marathon in 2011 and qualified for the NYC Marathon with a 3:20. I was stoked!

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Then, I switched to the day shift in November of 2011. I started noticing that I wasn’t able to run as much. I would go to work at 7am and get home around 7:30 pm and be exhausted after working on my feet all day. Work was busy, but much more enjoyable. I wasn’t sitting on Facebook all night while checking in on sleeping patients. I was up and moving; talking to doctors, families, social workers, and patients. I was actively coordinating patients’ care. Doctors were awake and were actually friendly! I was talking to doctors at 1 pm instead of 1 am (a big difference). If you ever want to hear what an angry person sounds like, call a doctor at 1 am with what they think is a stupid question. And believe me, at 1am every question is a stupid question. My career was amazing but running started to take a back burner.Image

I started trying to get runs in before work at 5 am but eventually found myself injured.  The combination of running, then being on your feet all day wasn’t a good fit. I looked it up. A nurse, working in the hospital, walks an average of 6 miles during a 12 hour shift…woah! This work and training combo was starting to exhaust me but I thought little of it at first.

I started training for the NYC Marathon last summer and called it my “solo season.” I trained with the Sole Survivors of course but would do my long runs on my own. I just couldn’t get myself to wake up at 5 am again on a Saturday when I did that all week. I didn’t mind running in the heat (crazy, I know) so I would sleep in a little and then head out to do 20 milers on my own. I did 7, 20 milers that season. I felt ready for NYC but had a fear I wouldn’t get a PR so I kept telling people I just wanted to run it for fun. Was that a confession? Please, if I were running it for fun I guarantee you I wouldn’t do 7, 20 milers in the heat of the Texas summer.

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We got up to NYC for race weekend. My uncle and I were going to run NYC together and we stayed with him, my aunt, and my cousin. My parents, brother, and soon to be sister-in-law also came up to support us. The hurricane prevented us from running it. At first, Jack and I rejoiced because we had a bad feeling going into it. We wondered if it would be like having a wedding near a funeral. How were we supposed to go out to Staten Island with our running gear and bananas and just run past families who have lost everything? We both said, “Now we can just drink and enjoy vacation!!” ImageThen, an hour later, Jack said, “I’m kind of sad.” That is exactly how I felt. I remembered all of those damn 20 milers I had done. James said, “It’s ok babe, just do Dallas with me again” but the thought of continuing to train for anything other than my goal race did not inspire me. The trip was a blast but every time I was having fun, I felt guilty. Every time I felt disappointed I couldn’t run my marathon, I felt guilty … for feeling disappointed.  I couldn’t really talk about how I felt because I didn’t want to seem selfish. Poor, poor, pitiful me…I don’t get to run the race I qualified for…let’s go to a high-end dinner and drink our sorrows away. It was an awkward time…should we volunteer? Where do we volunteer? Should we laugh? No let’s not laugh. Many people were mad at the New York Road Runners. My uncle is a freelance writer and works with NYRR. He wrote the entire welcome packet for the NYC Marathon. I couldn’t even bash the NYRR because my uncle kind of works for them! After NYC, I lost all motivation for marathoning. I don’t like being negative about the race because I still have my home and I didn’t lose anything except for MY race, but this is how I feel and I’m tired of holding it back because of guilt. But then again, I wish it wasn’t all of the above. I wish it were simpler. I wish it were a pair of shoes and an open road.

The good news is, although I’m still processing those feelings, running is still the steady in my life. After NYC, I noticed nursing came onto the front burner while marathoning took the back burner. I say marathoning instead of running because running is always an escape and a joy in my life. I feel very valued at work. Doctors and co-workers respect me and my patients trust me. I started to work as a teaching assistant for UT Nursing School in their clinical rotations once a week and feel valued by students. I realized that I want to work with patients on a higher level and therefore applied to grad school to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist. I got accepted to grad school at UT and start in the fall. Again, my career is on the front burner.

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To conclude, running has helped me find meaning. It has always been apart of my life and is at some times life itself. Running has given me value, given me a sense of control, and been an escape. I know there will be times when running is WAY on the back burner. Your job may be busy right now and preventing you from hitting that 60 mile a week mark or you are a new mom or dad and are busy raising your children. If that’s the case, know that running will always be there. Life is ever changing, and as much as running may be your steady; you have to be ok with letting it ebb and flow. Running partners will change. The routes will change. Your pace and abilities will change. It’s importance will change … sometimes it goes up. Sometimes it goes down. But it always has its place. For now, for me, that place is a simple one. Its not defined by a PR or the next big marathon … running, for now … is a pair of shoes and an open road.  

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