January 19, 2013 dawned bright and beautiful in historic downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
I was there to run a half marathon with five of my best running friends.
Afterwards, to eat, shop, and sight see. This, my first trip to Charleston.
The week leading up to this trip had not been a good one. Our morning runs, found me lagging behind. Something was not right.
In fact, the Sunday prior to this weekend, we were out walking with friends, when everything suddenly went dark.
Black as ink.
Knowing this run was on my to do list, something I had been looking forward to for months, I laughed it off.
My Soul Sister and our men folk led me over to a park bench where I pretended a quick recovery. The memory of that evening, fuzzy around the edges. Maybe some chips and guacamole. Maybe dessert and coffee.
We sat around a wooden table, fragrances of cinnamon, spices, and baking warmed the atmosphere, inviting us in. A smile pasted on my face, conversation seemed far away. I was trapped in my mind with anxious thoughts and fear. To reassure myself, I would silently repeat my name, my birthday, the day of the week, where I was.
Filing it away as just another “hooey” incident. I crawled in the car with my best friends and made the trip anyway. Running gear and shoes in my bag.
Up until now, I admit, I was a mite smug in my running. Meeting every mileage goal. Finishing every race strong. Never once entertaining the thought, I may never run again.
I was sitting at the counter, cup of hot coffee in hand, when I realized I was not feeling a hundred percent.
Flashbacks of the week, playing in my mind.
A black out, legs that felt stuck in quick sand, a pounding heart, intermittent confusion. Words and names just beyond my grasp. Minutes of panic when I walked out of the grocery store and couldn’t remember where I had parked my car.
Shake it off, I thought, it is all in your head.
We made our way to the start line, promising to stay together.
Inching closer, finger poised to start my Garmin, I knew. I just knew.
Turning to my Soul Sister, I confessed I was not feeling quite myself. “We’ll start slow,” she said.
I push the start button and off we go.
I was soon in a haze, struggling to make every step. I vaguely remember our friends pulling way ahead.
I kept asking where the first water station was, thinking if I quenched the fire in my throat, it would all be okay.
We made it there. Walked through, tossing water back. Picked back up at an easy pace. The distance between us growing fast.
It was one of those movie moments, where everything is in slow motion. We made a turn that had us running along the battery. The water to my right.
I yelled for my Soul Sister up ahead, with all the strength I could muster. My arms had started to flail about. Any running form, falling apart.
Shimmering light, skimmed across the water. My last coherent thought, I am not going to make it.
The light faded. I was in the dark.
Next thing I know, I am sitting on the tailgate of a pick up truck. My friend and the officer drilling me with questions.
Questions, I did not have the answers for.
An adamant NO to the hospital trip.
We made it back to where we were staying. Me, taking support along any wall we passed.
I later showered, looked down to see that my feet were a strange hue of purple. Panicking when I realized I could not even feel them. I wanted to scream for help, but chose to stay silent.
The rest of the day passing in a fog.
Oh I plastered a smile on my face. Acted as if I was okay.
I wasn’t okay.
Somewhere around mile two, the Coast Guard Station to my right, sailboats lazily drifting upon the water, my world changed. Shifted. The ground beneath my feet, rent apart.
Life interrupted. Life derailed.
Gifts of Grace