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I took weeks and weeks to write this email / this reply and I was thinking about it every day. It might be a longer one than can be expected and I do truly apologies for taking your time.
I wanted to say how much I really like the magazine that you have created. I can go into details but I will just say how thrilled I was to get your email – but than this thing came: the realisation. It’s a personal matter and I hope you understand.
In November 2014 I ran the ultimate Marathon: the NYC Marathon. Yes, there are many races and many marathons; yes, it’s not the oldest one – but secretly more or less we all know that NYC is the shit. For many, oh too many reasons, I needed to run it and get what I got from it: the absolute joy. I ran for my dreams being lifted for a brief few weeks in November 2012 and then constantly broken for next 23 months – so finishing the NYC marathon was a relief and a release of all that. But mainly I knew it was my last run.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with a not-so-rare set of autoimmune diseases. It came after the high of running my first ever half-marathon – and I did train for it, for once on my life! – in October 2011 in San-Francisco (Robin, wasn’t that year the best?). It was a month in a hospital and three months in-and-out – it was only the eyes that got affected, the retina detached and the fog settled. My eyesight went down but once the inflammation was over – with some loss of the vision I was fine, and went on the most fun journey in my life: bringing running to Moscow and to Russia. It was amazing to be that first person to speak about it so much and being heard as because already having a voice as a journalist. The “trend” of running started growing and still grows. From two existing races (two races per year for 12 million people) now it’s a racing weekend every other weekend, including my favorite baby of Moscow Marathon, Moscow half-marathons and smaller races as night races, Color Runs, charity events, trail and endurance distances and track meets for non-professionals.
It was an amazing upward journey for a few years. The year 2014 was The Best Running Year one can imagine: 17 countries, 24 half-marathons, 5 marathons, an ultra, 92 sunrise runs in summer and the project that I proudly delivered to Nike as settled as the creative consultant from being an ambassador. We celebrated with the beer mile as the closing event of the first track meet for running clubs on 31st of August and all was great.
Except that I was burying myself in work and running to keep myself sane and to heal my fucking broken heart. And the huge volumes of work, stress and sadness did the do: my back was really hurting. I took two weeks off to go to Thailand to rest before my trip to USA – a little more running, with dear friends..
After crossing the finish line in NYC I cried, and I cried and cried some more. I got back to Moscow to have my diagnosis: Ankylosing spondylitis. No more running. Ever. Punto. At all. Treatments that cost thousands and thousands. But hell NO MORE RUNNING.
I was given directions. Prescriptions. Injections. Exercise cartoons. X-rays. All that. Any little cold lasts for a month and causes another eyesight drop and shots of pain.
But I was told to exercise – like yoga – and swim. So I do. Yoga is less fun as instead of gaining my flexibility I seem to be losing it, week after week. I really threw myself into the swimming pool and that’s where the relationship with the water began. I have to swim to stay mobile. I have to love swimming and I am growing to like it. I have five swimming races coming up including the Bosphorus Swim – and that is the main personal highlight of the coming season that I can see ahead. My coach says I am doing fine. He says my legs are too strong from running and my core sucks (yeah, we all have fallen in this trap in 2012-2013, right?). But I can swim. I have to swim. I will swim and I will try to love swimming as much as I loved running. Open waters, bring it on.
I have to love swimming. I have to ignore the fact that more than anything I yearn the long distance running: that. This year I have only one single friend who does not run. Everyone started running within the frame of these few years. I couldn’t have asked for more as they now have the joy and I’m glad I could bring it to their lives. But God only knows how much I want to run. Easy, slow, hard, short, long, trail, city – damn anything. And It takes me ages – November, December, January, February, March, April – to come in terms with the fact that I am not a running anymore. That my running friends are still running and I’m left somewhere in the huge empty space. And that I have to learn to love swimming.
It tooks me ages to write this email but yesterday was the first day when I felt more or less happy again. I swam, and how silly is that: I bought a waterproof case for the iPhone and took an underwater selfie. It did cheer me up. I can take photos when I swim, I thought. It took me ages – and it is still taking a long time – to start even considering that I am worth something even if I don’t run. I have built my new life around running – I moved back from London, left my husband and my life in UK to start running in Moscow. And suddenly now I don’t have a shield of running to hold my life around it – vacations, career, friendship. I am slowly finding myself that I used to be – and I seem to remember was worth something – before my first ever 5k.
I have learned my lesson, thank you life.