Most people have heard about The Wall and undeniably most Marathon runners have had the experience. The 20th mile of a 26.2 mile trek is usually when a runner’s body begins to rebel against the punishment it has been enduring. How do some push through the wall? Freeman’s epilepsy has presented us with a different Wall. Almost every evening, after Freeman goes to bed, he hits his Wall! Nothing can prepare you for the heartbreak and fear this causes! Yet Our family pushes through every time.
Freeman has a wireless monitor on his bedside table. It allows Leanna and I to hear when he is having a seizure. Freeman’s seizures are horrific for a parent to experience, let alone from a monitor 50 feet away. They begin with a sudden gasp. Freeman then begins to choke. He makes loud noises as the convulsions prevent him from getting a full breath of air. It always wakes us up! I then start my all-to-common race to save my child...
The twentieth mile doesn’t sneak up on you. Every runner knows what lies ahead. The best way to prevent the wall from stopping you in your tracks is to acknowledge that it exists. I begin to prepare early in the race. Your body needs to have a steady stream of nutrients and fluids to replenish those being robbed by every mile. Gel, goo, water and Gatorade are your best bets to lower the challenge of the wall. The only other recommendation to help is to get acquainted with the wall before the race. Long runs are important for establishing endurance and pace for the race. However, runs longer than 20 miles are excellent for preparing you mentally to overcome the wall. I am confident in saying that running is 90% mental. These long runs help your mind experience the fatigue and disillusion that hit you at that point of a marathon. Again, preparation is the key to most successful races. The wall is just a brutal reality check on how well you have prepared!
Freeman’s room is 40 strides and 25 stair steps away from my pillow. I am well conditioned on this path. As I near his room I can hear Leanna comforting Freeman over the 2-way radio “Daddy’s on his way. You are going to be ok!” Freeman’s seizures fortunately never last longer than 30 seconds. Yet that half-minute seems like a lifetime. All that I want is for my son to stop his convulsions and begin breathing again. I have found stimulation helps him regain control from the evil seizure bastard. I scratch his scalp and rub his hands while telling him he will be ok. It is grounding to have a 24-hour day boil down to a 30 second episode. Similar to the marathon, Freeman has always pushed through. After his convulsions, Free is not aware of his environment. Lately he has had a 2nd violent seizure that grabs control of his arms and legs. He thrashes against his bed to make the evil seizure bastard stop. At this point he is becoming alert and he starts to whimper. Let me tell you, a parent should never hear their child whimper and cry as often as Leanna and I have heard Freeman. After every episode, before I leave Freeman to go back to our room, he always says “Thank you Daddy.”
The Wall is a scary moment that everyone needs to prepare for in their Marathon. However, proper nutrition, hydration and training can reduce the impact the wall will have over the last 6 miles of the marathon. Epilepsy provides it’s own version of the Wall. So much preparation and experience boils down to one moment, the seizure. Freeman is the toughest kid in the world, having pushed through his wall more often than-not. I hate the evil seizure bastard and one day we will rid him from the world. Until then Freeman and I run against the Wall. I will always smile when I reach my Wall at 20 miles. It is a joke compared to the wall Freeman faces. I will run strong, never allowing my body to rebel. I will always think of Freeman and know I have the strength to push through.
I have described many of the things that help people run a marathon or live with epilepsy. However, I will share the most important requirement at this 11th mile of my Marathon blog.
Family. Without family both of these difficult journeys would be impossible to travel.
Running a race longer than 10 miles requires a runner to train at least 5 days a week. There is something about 5 days. Your body tells you that it is recovering quickly, and that it can handle the extra miles. Medication for treating Epilepsy can often require a patient to take pills at least 5 times a day! That is a tough task to manage. The medication can introduce side effects and complicate a daily routine.
Mile 9 is a good point to look a little deeper at some of the factors that can impact marathon runners and epilepsy patients. What are some of my tricks for improving hydration and electrolytes while training to run long distances? How are Freeman’s seizures influenced by his sleep and stress levels? The more we understand these factors, the better we can prepare to be at our best.
At the 8 mile mark of a Marathon, most people have been running for nearly an hour. With 2 or more hours left, they must learn to settle into the race. Likewise, everyday provides constant reminders of the challenges Freeman faces with Epilepsy. Our family needed to find ways to help everyone settle into our long marathon with Epilepsy.
Everybody struggles with waking up early in the morning. This mile covers how I gained a new perspective on how to start my days from experiences with Freeman’s epilepsy and my running.
Summer is here and that means one thing… it is camp season!
Next week Freeman is heading off to his 3rd Camp Brainstorm. Camp Brainstorm offers an amazing week away from home for kids with Epilepsy. Freeman can’t wait!
I used to go to running camps when I was younger. In High School, I traveled with my teammates to the University of Oregon to attend Bill Dellinger’s Track Camp. In college, I joined my teammates for a week of Coach Poehlein’s boot camp at the Indiana Dunes State Park. I was always ready to go!
Camps provide a perfect environment for learning valuable lessons and getting motivated
At the fifth mile of a marathon a runner should be aware of the location of the pace runners. The pace runners offer a great service to the participants of the race. The pace runner knows their target pace, which is typically slower than their normal pace. They pride themselves on hitting even splits to help runners have a successful race. Watching your watch and worrying about your pace can be reduced by keeping tabs on a pace group. A group of runners is easier to focus on and will allow you to relax more and possibly enjoy the scenic course and energetic crowd.
4 miles into a marathon a runner should begin to implement their nutrition plan to keep their body from bonking later in the race. The bonk in a race is defined as a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy which is caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. The body will not let you know when to begin replenishing nutrients, but it will give you plenty of pain and struggles later in the race if you do not start early enough. Ironically, the goal of a ketogenic diet is to deplete muscle and liver stores of glycogen. For a person struggling with epilepsy, a ketogenic diet can reduce their glycogen levels, one of the major triggers for seizures.
We can credit a lot of our success to our Grandparent’s generation. Marathon training and Epilepsy medication still rely heavily on things first introduced in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Fartlek running workouts were used by the Swedes to compete with the Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi. Carbamezepine, aka Tegretol, was discovered by the Swiss in 1953 to help combat seizure disorders. Today, marathon training programs almost always include a strong dose of Super Fartleks, just as seizure patients are likely to be prescribed Carbamezepine.