Going the Distance, Part 2

By Shawnn Slaughter

Originally published on Advocate.com January 08 2008 1:00 AM ET

I did it. On
December 2 I ran the Las Vegas Half Marathon! Two days prior
a Las Vegas television station, KLAS, interviewed me about
running it and living with HIV. The
station did a wonderful job and even interviewed
my mother for a perspective from a parent who has an
adult child with HIV. Part of why I do this is because I get
to play poster boy, which I thoroughly enjoy.

The morning of
the marathon I awoke at 3:30 a.m. and proceeded to lube up
with Bodyglide, a type of ChapStick for the body. This is
necessary to prevent chafing, especially between the
thighs and on the nipples, since there is
a common condition that we male runners simply call
"bloody nipples." (Some men may like this sort of pain. I
don't.) I then dressed in my running tights, shirt,
and sparkly shorts, all in red. I also wore red
sweatpants, which I shed just before the start.

My father was
gracious enough to drive me to the starting line at
Mandalay Bay hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. There were over
17,000 runners that morning. The temperature was in
the 30s, but there was no wind and the sky was clear.
A record number of Elvises were running, and 54
couples were getting married in the run-through
wedding chapel on the course. I'm unaware if any same-
sex couples were married; however, I did see a man
running in a wedding gown.

The race started
at 6 a.m. complete with fireworks and an Elvis
impersonator singing “Viva Las Vegas.” As I
made my way down the strip, recording everything with
my small video camera, it was most electrifying to be
in the middle of it all. There were several entertainment
stages and other festivities throughout the
route, most notably the Blue Man Group. I had a large
name tag on my chest along with my website URL, www.RunShawnnRun.com,
so people on the sidelines could cheer me on. My
all-red outfit also provoked cheers of “Go
red devil!” and “Diablo!”

I met and spoke
with a number of interesting people on the course,
sharing my experience about training with the National AIDS
Marathon Training Program for March's Los Angeles
Marathon with runners from San Francisco and
Chicago. It was delightful to see others who were
doing the same thing I'm doing -- raising money for AIDS
service organizations. I'm fund-raising for AIDS
Project Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization that,
among other things, provides essential services to
people living with HIV.

As I approached
the final mile I began to feel a shin splint in my left
leg. This is an uncomfortable injury to the muscle attached
to the shin; luckily, the discomfort was minor. Around
that point I passed a table of people who were handing
out beer -- it wasn't even 9:30 a.m.! I declined
their generous offer and pushed forward to the final
stretch. My time at the finish line was 3 hours, 5
minutes, 47 seconds, putting me at a pace of about 14
minutes per mile. Not my personal best, but I was not
in it for time; I was in it for the challenge and endurance.
This was simply a practice marathon for the 26.2 miles
I will run in Los Angeles in three months. I felt
immensely proud and elated to be a part of the Las
Vegas event for the second year in a row. I also received an
awesome medal depicting the world-famous Las Vegas
sign and two running shoes.

Now it’s
time to slow down. Three weeks before Las Vegas I injured
myself (not seriously). I had what is called
iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). The iliotibial (IT)
band is a muscle band that begins at the hip,
extending to the outer side of the shinbone (tibia) just
below the knee joint. ITBS is an irritation to that
band, usually occurring at the outside of the
knee joint. When inflamed, the IT band can become
excruciatingly painful. ITBS has many causes, such as
running on a banked surface, inadequate stretching,
running too fast, or simply overdoing it, all of which
I did. Remedies include icing the area, proper
stretching, and anti-inflammatory medications like
ibuprofen. I previously experienced ITBS in both legs
when training for the San Francisco Marathon. It was
almost debilitating. My legs felt like uncooked
macaroni, and I was walking bowlegged.

Fortunately,
stretching and using an occupational therapy/physical
therapy roller have alleviated the symptoms. The roller,
three feet long and 20 inches in circumference,
is black molded firm foam with a smooth surface.
It’s not too comfortable to roll on, but it does the
trick and stretches out the IT band. I'm now also running at
a slower pace of 15 minutes per mile; I was running at
a pace of 13 minutes, 30 seconds per mile. Going
slower has worked out extremely well for me, as I have
had no further ITBS issues.

A few weeks ago I
had received some encouraging news from my doctor. My T
cells -- which fight HIV infection -- are now over 200,
which is the minimum we want; and my viral load, the
amount of HIV in my body, is considered undetectable.

That’s it
for this month. To follow me and keep up to date with my
training, check out my video blog at www.RunShawnnRun.com.