If I Have to Crawl

By Laura Edwards
The cold, damp weather chased me indoors this morning for my Thunder Road Half Marathon training. I’m a fan of running in the cold, but not the rain. So I bundled up and headed to the YMCA, where I hit the 1/12-mile-long track with my heart set on completing 120 laps, or 10 miles.

The first mile felt good – nice and easy.

The second mile was better; my muscles were warm, I was into the heart of my playlist, and I coasted.

Near the end of the third mile, I thought about how if I was Taylor running one of her 5Ks, I’d be close to the finish line. When I’m running a race, I like to sprint the rest of the way as soon as the finish line comes into my field of vision. But Taylor never got a glimpse of the finish lines she crossed. She had to get her last burst of energy from somewhere else – somewhere deeper, somewhere purer.

Two laps into the fourth mile, an invisible demon struck a match inside my shoes, and the balls of my feet caught on fire. My Achilles whined. Everything else felt good, though. So I pushed on.

Partially to push my very real physical pain out of my mind, I thought about how if I was Taylor, I would be running in darkness. I was too scared to close my eyes on one of the turns, so I closed them for an instant on a straightaway. I felt the presence of other runners and walkers on the tiny track and knew that I would never be able to make it to the far end. I opened my eyes.

Seven laps later, I glanced down and discovered that the entire toe area of the shoe on my right foot was soaked with blood. I never stop in the middle of a mile, though. I had three laps left. Just a quarter of a mile.

As I rounded the third corner of lap 60, I sprinted the length of the last straightaway and right into a chair by the water fountains. I was only halfway through my 10-mile run. But I knew I was done.

I’ve been injury-prone since I was 15 years old. I’ve never gotten through a single soccer season without getting hurt. In my mid-20s, I made the inexplicable decision to turn myself into a distance runner. I never really thought about why until this very moment, right here. But I know instantly, without question, that I became a distance runner because of my sister.

In the months after Taylor’s diagnosis, I ran to get away from Batten disease. No matter what, running always felt better than crying. I still cried. But I ran more. And after I discovered that I just might have a say in how the story turned out, I ran harder than ever.

Blood-soaked shoes and all, I’ll never stop running. Next Saturday, December 11, I’ll cross the finish line of my second half marathon, even if I have to crawl. I could never let myself quit. That’s not Taylor’s style, and it’s not my style either. So, to bloody feet and weak ankles and Batten disease, I say bring it on. You may knock me down. But you’ll never knock me out.

I’m not only running for myself – I’m running to save Taylor’s life. Please consider supporting my efforts through Miles to a Miracle, a new campaign inspired by Taylor’s great courage on the race course and in life. Email me to learn how.

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