Goodbye Running - Giving Up Something I Loved Thanks to My MS

Jamie Tripp Utitus
Written by
Jamie Tripp Utitus

My entire adult life I was a runner. It was a big part of my identity and who I was. I am not sure why we seek labels to define ourselves, but at that time I saw myself as mother, teacher, wife and runner. When multiple sclerosis was added to my equation, it affected my legs the most, and after several falls I realized that I could no longer run. It was a hard and painful decision, but I did not realize how much it affected me until many months later.

At first, I’d see other people running and I’d get excited still. I always beeped my horn and would wave, whether I knew the person or not. I had such an affinity for it I could never help myself. Friends would ask, “Did you know that guy?” I’d matter-of-factly say, “Nope.” I didn’t care. Any runner may as well have been part of my family. I was THAT into it.

And then one day I stopped beeping. The love turned into a resentment of sorts. It pained me to see a runner on my way to wherever I was going. That should be me. The muscles in my legs were beginning to fade away. No more worrying about playlists and music to accompany my run. Nothing to train for and anticipate.

I don’t love running marathons, but I loved training for them; little bits of accomplishments and longer and longer runs. During training you feel like you deserve a medal when you up your long run by 2 miles (4.2 kilometers). Now, the love I once had for running was replaced with sadness, a realization that I wasn’t coming back. My legs weren’t coming back in that way ever again. That part of my life, I had to admit, was over. I was no longer a runner. Whatever the feeling was, it was deep and a sense of mourning and silent. No horns. No runs. No playlists.

Then one day I started beeping again. It was reflex. I contemplated why. Why all of a sudden did this pain leave? I realized what pained me before was replaced by something else. I now had a garden I was really into and had started writing and became an author. Would I give these new things up for running, to get my old life back? Honestly, I can’t say I would.

I can give you this, no matter where you are at in this disease-whatever you were forced to give up for your disease- replace it with something else that you CAN do; something that you are organically curious about! If you can’t run, try swimming or yoga. I found gardening after my grandfather passed. He was a farmer and it soothed me and made me feel connected to him. I started writing and wrote a children’s book about MS. Fill your life up with NEW things and make your world bigger. Once a runner, always a runner…and now I’m a gardener, an environmentalist, an author and writer. I just returned from France where I presented my book and spoke as a patient with MS to advocate for patients.

Did I mention how speaking out about the disease and the changes that we must see in order for us to make progress is a very healing, empowering thing. So replace that hole, fill it up, like I did with my garden and my book, and speak out if you can. Speak on behalf of your brothers and sisters with this disease. Your world will grow. My world is so much bigger now, and that sad silence is no more.

Insert horn-honking here!

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