Mind over Body

By Laura Edwards

When my alarm went off at 6:15 this morning, the outdoor temp hovered in the mid-30s, and a steady, cold rain sounded like a waterfall in my backyard. Of the 619 runners registered for the Charlotte 10 Miler and 4 Mile Run, 164 stayed home.

But I pulled on my wicking socks, UnderArmour tights, three layers of tech t-shirts – purple on top for Taylor – water-repellent jacket and wicking baseball cap.

I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and Gala apple and drank a glass of water.

I laced up my Brooks Glycerin 9s – shoes that served me well for 500+ miles in 2012 but that are balder than a tire on a junkyard car.

I posed for the requisite pre-race, pre-soaking photo.

pre-Charlotte 10 Miler 2013

I climbed in the car with my husband, drove three miles to the starting line and shivered in the rain for 20 minutes until the horn for the 10-mile race sounded. When it did, I discovered that in an effort to steal a few dry square inches beneath the starter’s tent, I’d found a puddle at least a couple of inches deep. Needless to say, my nice, warm, cushioned socks were soaked through.

I didn’t have time to worry about it, though – I had a race to run! I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so whenever I run a race, I want to set a new personal record (PR). My PR for any 10-miler is 1:25:27; my PR for the Charlotte 10 Miler, in only its second year of existence, is 1:26:10.

I’m a pretty consistent runner, which means that if I have any notion of setting a PR, I have no margin for error. I stuffed my iPhone in its double-Ziploc-bag fortress, stuffed that into my jacket pocket, pulled on my gloves, kicked up my water-logged, no-tread shoes and kicked it into high gear.

Two miles in, I entered one of south Charlotte’s greenways and met up with a friend who’d offered to run with me throughout a good portion of the race. Andrew competes in ultramarathons, so my rainy 10-mile race probably felt like a walk in the water park to him.

I usually run with an app that keeps me informed re: my distance and average pace, but today, I traded in my headphones for my running buddy. Andrew paced me, watched out for the wannabe lake-puddles on the greenway’s boardwalks and helped me stay motivated. He talked me through the killer hill on mile eight. I wanted to walk that hill last year, but I jogged it; this year, I RAN it. A few times, he coached me on when to pass people. In the last mile, he scoped out a runner who most likely fell into my age group; I smoked her.

Somewhere on the course, Andrew told me that running’s mostly a mind game.

I believe that.

When I heard that horn sound at the start line and saw the Boston Marathon jacket on the runner next to me – a runner probably in the 30-34 females group just like me – I thought about how I ran my first organized race of ANY distance barely five years ago, and how soccer chewed up my joints and spit them out, and how those joints probably belong in a trash can, not on a race course. I thought about the rain and the bald tires on my feet. And I figured I wouldn’t be setting a new PR. Not today.

Charlotte 10 Miler 2013 finish

But I did.

And out of the 179 runners – male or female – who actually braved the rain to run the 10-miler, I finished 27th.

I don’t know why my sister has to have Batten disease. I wish she could will her broken body to fight off the monster the way I can will my broken body to run long races, rain or shine.

But I do know this: we know how to dance in the rain. And after a good rain, the sun always comes out to play. There’s a monster called Batten disease in our midst, but good things are coming just the same. I can feel it.

I believe.

Unexpected Angels

By Laura Edwards

A few weeks ago, Taylor and my parents flew about 3,000 miles from our hometown of Charlotte, NC, to Portland, OR, the misty city guarded by towering evergreens where my sister had brain surgery in a hospital on a hill five years ago.

My sister isn’t the same chatty, bouncy girl whose golden locks we received in a Ziploc bag in the family waiting room moments after they wheeled her back for surgery on that cold, gray morning in January 2008. The cross-country trips to Oregon for follow-up care have grown more difficult with each passing year.

For this, their last scheduled visit of the five-year follow-up study, my family had a connecting flight in Phoenix, AZ. My parents had several large carry-on bags to manage in addition to my sister. They had just minutes to get to their connecting flight, scheduled to leave from a terminal on the opposite end of the airport. Mom later told me that as they struggled to make it with their bags and my sister, who can’t see or run, she couldn’t help but think that airports are difficult to navigate for people with disabilities and too much luggage.

Then, a man in a shirt and tie discovered their dilemma. Also from Charlotte, he was on his way to a business meeting. His flight left from a different terminal, but he carried several of my family’s bags and walked with them all the way to their gate. On the long journey, they learned that he has physical therapists and occupational therapists in the family and believes in people who help others overcome injuries and disabilities; but through all the frenzy, they never got his name. Mom told me that if he hadn’t helped them, they would have missed their connecting flight to Portland.

Montego BayWhen my parents finally got on the plane and inched down the aisle towards their seats, they realized that they’d have to maneuver my sister over an elderly woman seated alone. A grandmotherly type, she had a “Pooh bear” shape, chocolate skin and silver hair, and the eyes behind her thick glasses looked kind. She told Mom that after selling Avon makeup for 32 years, she’d finally won a trip to Jamaica. She didn’t have a person in the world, but she’d been waiting for that trip, so she booked her flight and her room on Montego Bay. When she went to apply for her first-ever passport, she told the lady behind the counter, “I’m going to die before I can use this again, so when I come home, can I get a partial refund?” After she told her story, she got quiet for a while. But later, Mom glanced over and saw the woman holding Taylor’s hand in hers. She looked up, and her eyes met Mom’s, and she told Mom she’d pray for her daughter.

The woman on the plane wore her Avon name tag for her first trip to the Caribbean; Mom told me she can picture it, but for the life of her, she can’t remember her name.

Fighting a monster like Batten disease day in and day out makes it easy to get caught up in your own problems. It makes it easy to miss the accidental moments and the unexpected angels.

But at the end of the day, aren’t those life’s most beautiful things?

Aren’t they all any of us can really hope to have – whether or not we’re facing a terminal disease?


By Laura Edwards

We had a wet winter here in Charlotte. My grass is already a rich, vibrant green, my roses are already coming to life, and the weeping willow we planted in the backyard two summers ago is already stretching its limbs toward the skies after its months-long slumber. Yesterday, we were graced with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70s here in North Carolina. Not even March Madness could keep me, a self-described college basketball nut, indoors.
More than just a physical renewal, spring inspires a spiritual sort of rebirth. As I ran laps around the pond in our neighborhood yesterday morning, my sense of ‘believe’ was stronger than it has been in a long, long time.
Mom, Dad, and Taylor escaped to Charleston for a quick renewal of their own during the middle of T’s spring break this past week. On Friday, what was supposed to be an afternoon departure turned into a walk along the city’s waterfront park and famous Battery that stretched into the early evening hours. There, an 11-year-old girl going through an unimaginable illness and two parents going through an unimaginable pain found solace in the sunshine, the breeze and the sound of gentle waves as they lapped up against the walls of the Battery.