Keeping promises - especially to your kids - is a crucial part of life. So when my daughter asked me to join her in a half-marathon next summer (2014), I was leery of saying yes. This broken down body of mine limped through most days when I walked, much less when I tried running. I said yes anyway.
Rational? No, not really but, at a fundamental level, I needed an anchor. I've always succeeded when I was willing to accept the price of the dream, whether chasing after an ultra or starting a business. I've also had my moments of deciding that, nope, I wasn't willing to pay that price. Early in my working career, problems abounded because I act on my beliefs. That usually acts as an impediment in corporate America.
So, I said "F. it" and found employment where I worked as my own boss. When I got tired of even that little bit of control, I started a business. About the same time, my gout exploded from an occasional annual bout to monthly attacks and my running went from 70 miles a week to be glad that walking didn't hurt too much and squeezing what miles I could when I didn't hurt too bad.
My doctor through the last five years of this has been the essence of patience. She never let me off the hook for how hard I pushed but, together, we worked on it. Along the way, we discovered that I react to most NSAIDs which makes controlling the outbreaks a pain.
I'm also reactive - I don't want to say allergic because it's not a 'take a dose, have an anaphylactic fit' - to the gout medications and diet was getting me only so far. Prednisone would knock down the swelling but wipe me out from running for three weeks or more.
Then came last year's Spokane to Sandpoint relay and, the night before, a mild gout attack. The team used up their its pool of replacements covering for a young lady with the flu. I ran the relay with the bum foot and along the way, set a new performance standard when on of my teammates cheered me on with a shout of "You're not limping!" Good enough and it got me through the weekend.
I went to see her - again - after that. Diet wasn't working and the attacks were getting more frequent. In December, she offered to try me out with a new medication.
I read the literature. It would trigger attacks for two months to two years while it cleaned out my system - if I didn't react to it first.
It was in January that my daughter asked me to run with her, in the midst of what would turn into a six month long attach of gout that moved from joint to joint and often occupied two or three joints at once. I hadn't run since early December when I visited a friend in Eugene.
I said yes, anyway.
And then began worrying about keeping promises. I ran when I could - twice in a week sometimes, separated by two or three weeks by another attack. Running too much actually triggers more attacks.
Today, it was about six. And for a short stretch of trail, the stride was strong, the ground flew by, and I chased a mule deer through the wood. The deer won and it wasn't close but for that moment, a little sliver of hope that I kept banked and carefully tended, burst into flame.
Because I think that I'm going to be able to keep my promise to my daughter. And while keeping promises is important, rekindling hope can life-changing. For me, a small change, a return to what was.
But if you can kindle hope in someone who has no belief in the future, you've done them a great service. I look at all the children who have already given up whether it's due to family circumstances or crappy schools or the gangbangers on the corner and I want to find a way to inspire them.
And I don't know how. Not yet. But I will.
I promise. Somewhere, sometime, I'm going to make that connection.