Going the Distance, Part 3

By Shawnn Slaughter

Originally published on Advocate.com January 14 2008 1:00 AM ET

Since I ran the
Las Vegas Half Marathon in December, I feel as if I have
been on a downward spiral. On December 15, I ran a 20-miler
in Los Angeles, sustaining in a minor injury to my
foot that caused some isolated swelling --
possibly a stress fracture, also known as a fatigue
fracture. This results from repeated stress, like running on
hard surfaces, that creates microscopic hairline
fractures in the bone. These tiny fractures are rarely
visible in X-rays. The best way to treat this common
runner’s injury is rest. I stayed off my foot for
about five days.

After recovering
I was ready to resume my maintenance runs, but the
fierce weather here in Las Vegas interfered. The wind was
gusting at more than 40 miles per hour. The
temperature was in the upper 30s to low 40s. I ended
up running on my gym’s dreaded treadmill. Running in
the same spot 30 minutes or more can be boring, so I
take my iPod and listen to music as I run. I
especially like listening to Los Angeles–based rocker
Gabe Lopez. He’s a cutie with a hot sound that keeps
me going. When running on the course with the National
AIDS Marathon, we are not allowed to wear headphones
in the interest of safety. It also works against
building and keeping the team spirit of our pace groups.

Around the end of
December, I began to experience a profound lack of
energy. I was sleeping quite a bit and had little stamina
and desire to do my maintenance runs. I had to force
myself to get up and run. In so doing, I slowed down
my pace. I was able to complete a 30-minute run but
felt tired afterward.

Although my
T-cells are over 200 and my viral load is in the low
thousands, it turns out that I have developed a resistance
to some of my HIV medications. So now I am looking at
a change in meds. This is not such a problem, as there
are many new drugs that have recently become
available. I can remember a time when there were no
medications for HIV. I am more than confident this
will all work out for me.

On January 12, I
pushed myself to travel 300 miles west to Los Angeles
for a 23-mile run with the National AIDS Marathon Program. I
almost didn’t make it, but I remembered that I
was running for a cause. Even though I have raised
enough money for AIDS Project Los Angeles, I realized
that there are still people who are rooting for me,
including those at APLA, the National AIDS Marathon,
and people who watch my video blog, Run Shawnn Run. I
didn’t want to let them down, and I didn’t
want to let myself down.

To assuage my
lack of energy, I chose a slower-pace group, which ran at
16:30 per mile, and a run/walk ratio of 1:3 -- running one
minute and walking three minutes. I had not run with
this group before, so I got to meet some new people in
the training program.

Our 7 A.M.
training run was so chilly I could see the frost on my
breath. We ran through Griffith Park and past the Los
Angeles Zoo. By Mile 3, it began to warm up. We
proceeded out of the park into Glendale, passing by
DreamWorks Studio, at which point we lost one runner in our
group to a knee injury.

There were many
runners in the training program who had dropped out
during training that day because of various injuries. I
was worried I would be one of them. The group
continued through Burbank, passing by Disney Studios.
As the run went on, I heard some members of my group
grumble about the length of the run, how tired they were,
and that they were ready to stop. I made no objections
about the run or the complaints of my fellow pace
group members. I could only feel grateful that I was
able to do the run.

Soon we were in
Toluca Lake, passing by some very beautiful houses.
Finally, we were on our way back to Griffith Park, with a
total run time of about 7 hours. I sustained no
injuries, just some soreness. I was quite proud of
myself for making it to and completing the run.

It’s now
less than two months until the Los Angeles Marathon.
I’m excited and nervous about it at the same
time. I have a 26-mile training run at the beginning
of February in Los Angeles. I still have to do my regular
maintenance runs. Somehow I will find the strength to get
through all of this and run the marathon as planned.