Running up that hill

Newstead House, Brisbane

No, no, wait… The title isn’t a self-pitying metaphor for the latest challenge Lil Z has thrown my way. And no, it’s not how I’m going to describe the feeling of Lil Z’s development, or the emotional demands of being a mother to a child with special needs. No, this really is a post about running uphill. And downhill. And on some straight-aways too.

I’ve been running or jogging for as long as I can remember. I have early childhood memories of running cross-country with my mom and my cat Snowball (no, I don’t know why the cat ran with us, although its probably a good indicator of how fast we were going since cats aren’t exactly known for their endurance). Some of my fondest memories are of running cross-country and track at school – and some of my most embarrassing, since I was known for tripping over my feet more than I was winning the race. After I left school, I kept running because it helped me think things through and to manage stress. And one of my greatest life accomplishments was running the London Marathon – twice.

Of course there have been plenty of periods when I haven’t run – either through laziness or circumstance. One of those periods was after Lil Z. However, I put my running shoes back on last year with the intention of running the Bridge to Brisbane. It never actually happened because I tripped and fractured my foot, but it got me back into the swing of running. Now my personal trainer has started a running group to train for the Gold Coast Half Marathon and I’ve joined. And I’m enjoying it.

And then I saw this video about Dick and Rick Hoyt. It gave me an idea. And no, the idea was not to do an Ironman (anyone who has seen me swim or cycle any distance knows why that idea is laughable). But it gave me the idea to start running with Lil Z.

So, this morning I got up and Lil Z and I went for a run. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as inspirational as the video.

First, it took a lot more organising than I’m used to. Lil Z needed to be up and dressed, given some water through her PEG so she didn’t get thirsty, sunscreen on her legs and feet, and pack a bag with extra bibs, muslins and sick bags (she’s in a dribbling and vomiting phase at the moment) as well as her rescue meds, in the event she has a seizure. I had to get myself up and ready (realised the laundry from yesterday wasn’t dry, so had to give my running shorts an emergency tumble dry) and debate if it would be rude to Lil Z if I listened to music while I ran. The Mountain Buggy was in the car, so I had to get that out and then load her in it.

Finally we set off and probably went about 500m before Lil Z started coughing and we had to have a vomit break. This almost sent me back home – especially since it was 8am by then and the Brisbane morning was starting to heat up – but I decided to persevere. In the end, we did a loop along the river and then back.

And oh my goodness was it hard! I couldn’t run the whole distance (even though it wasn’t really that far) and had to power walk a couple of times. My lungs felt like they were going to explode out of my chest. And my arms, even now, feel floppy and weak. I’ll admit that part of this is me being out of shape. But I’ve been running three times a week lately and this is the first time I’ve hit a wall like this.

It’s the result of pushing a nearly 15kg child while running (or trying to). I sorely underestimated how difficult that was going to be. And although I love our stroller, it’s not designed for running. And its had a dodgy wheel axle since we bought it that QB has never got round to fixing because it’s never bothered me too much pushing the stroller on the school run or round the local shopping mall. But running with it – that’s another matter.

I’ve begun to admire “real” running strollers online, but they’re shockingly expensive and I’m not sure they would be appropriate for Lil Z with her need for support. And also, since Lil Z is a BIG girl, it wouldn’t make sense to get one if we will only be able to use it for a year or so. And I need to go running with Lil Z more to justify that I’m going to keep doing it – and therefore a running stroller is a good investment.

For her part, Lil Z loved going for a run. As a girl with vestibular hyposensitivity, all the bouncing and jiggling and jumping over curbs, as well as the “speed” (not speed as such, but at least faster than she usually goes) was fantastic, in her opinion. She was completely chilled out for the whole trip and several times looked like she might even fall asleep.

I also think that running with Lil Z will give us something that we do together. It will give us memories that don’t involve doctors, hospitals or therapy. I have lots of memories of things I’ve done with Vegemite – not just the big things like exciting holidays and birthday parties, but little things like going shopping or baking cookies. But few with Lil Z that aren’t specific to addressing her needs. Running will be something fun that we can do together.

So, I’m not ready to give up the idea just yet. But like all things with Lil Z, it will take more time and effort than I originally expected. I’m hoping we get there. I’ve registered for the Mother’s Day Classic 8km in early May and had hoped to run with Lil Z since it’s a “fun run”. So, I’m going to keep running uphill, and downhill and reminding myself that our little 2-person running team is good for both of us.

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