When MS Makes Me Wonder If I'll Ever Buy Another Pair of Running Shoes


New shoes.

New running shoes.

I buy a new pair every 12 to 18 months. Every time I open that fresh box and tie the laces for the first time on my feet, I’m torn between joy and fear.

Is this my last pair of new running shoes, ever?

I started running when I was 12. I was in elementary school, sixth grade. It was announced we’d be competing with the seven other elementary schools in town at the junior high for a track and field day.

I was terrified.

Skinny, shy, awkward, not athletic. What if I came in dead last in every event? I didn’t want everyone looking at me. Laughing at me.

I began to practice at home when no one was looking. Into the field I went, the dog at my heels. I ran. And ran and ran and ran. Through the fields and the woods, Boo and I made tracks.

My first event at race day was some hundred-yard dash or another. My heart was racing, I was second-guessing my outfit and the spring day was already sunny and hot. I’d never seen so many kids in once place, and a lot of them looked fast.

We were asked to partner up. Nervous, I glanced around. A boy from my class, half smirking, half laughing, asked if I’d join him. I knew why he was asking. Quiet Abigail, easy to beat. I said OK. He smiled, so assured in his pending victory.

But I totally kicked his butt. And everyone laughed at him.

At the end of the school year, he tried to give me his phone number. I declined.

That’s when I became hooked on running, however. I never stopped. I didn’t join cross country or track in junior high or high school. I lived in the country and didn’t have a car until I was older and teams and bonds well past established. But I ran at home, Boo by my side, through those shady trees, the sunlight slanted and fading by the time we reached home again, out of breath and thirsty.

Multiple sclerosis changed my ability to run. There are days, weeks, months that I cannot run. I can barely walk, more less trot or jog or flat out run. It’s in those relapses, these hardest of hard times, when I dream of running. Through the tall golden field grasses, my long gone dog still there beside me. Our feet eat the trails, it’s not hard to breathe or move my legs and we never think about stopping.

I always wonder when I wake up, weak and in pain and so so exhausted from the task of simply being alive, “Will I ever run again?”

Running has become part of my identity over the years. It is very, essentially, me. I know how lucky I am as a person with MS to even be able to walk most days without aid. More less still exercise on my own volition and capability at times.

There will likely come a day, not far from now, that I’ll have to give it up.

There isn’t a time in these years of being diagnosed when I put on my shoes that I don’t thank my body for letting me still have this.

I’m not good anymore. I’m downright pathetic some days. I’m slow. I have to walk or stop sometimes. But occasionally, once every year maybe, I can still stretch my legs and run. Not far, not long, but still. Run. In my mind, I’m 12 years old again, and tackling my fears, Boo at my heels, tongue hanging out.

Are these my last pair of new running shoes ever?

Maybe.

But I’m going to tie them on as many times as I can.

Image Credits: Abigail Bostwick

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