Participant Page: Because We Are All Warriors
“You know why you didn’t give up out there, Melissa? Because you are a WARRIOR!” --a fellow race walker.
I finished my leg of the relay race. I finished it in tears and could barely walk from the severe pain in my right knee. I almost gave up, but I didn’t. Knowing that if I quit the race, I would let down my 7 teammates, and that one of them would have to pick up my slack and race walk nearly a marathon, prevented me from quitting. Or maybe, I really am a warrior?
I race walked over 15 miles in the Portland to Coast Relay this August with my team, Racewalkers Northwest No Fun Intended. We finished 8th out of nearly 400 teams, and 3rd in our division. Usually, I am one of the “speedy” ones on my team, but this year was different. I trained hard, religiously doing my track workouts and long distance workouts. I even had a coach design a training plan for me. Training was going excellent—I was getting faster and preparing for a 20k race later in September.
The Friday two weeks before Portland to Coast Relay, I left my apartment in the dark at 5:00 AM to get my workout in before I was scheduled to go to work. I forgot my headlamp, but I thought that it wasn’t a big deal since there are street lights in Portland. One mile later, I was thinking about how lucky I was to hit the walk signal at the right time—no waiting at the light! I started down a steep hill. The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air trying to regain my balance. I reached out with my hands, feeling my palm, knees, then shoulder hit and scrape the concrete sidewalk as my body slid forward to a stop. I’m not proud of it, but I screamed and cried there alone on the sidewalk in the dark at 5:00 AM. I couldn’t think of anyone who I could call to give me a ride to urgent care or home—everyone was either asleep still or too far away to help. An ambulance drove right past, but they were probably dealing with a life threatening emergency. With blood running down my knees, I walked a mile to my apartment, crying with every step. Over the next two weeks, I took it easy—hoping my knees would be healed by race day.
Everyone was quick to blame the sidewalk as the cause of my fall. Only one of my friends immediately realized why I really fell—I have a vestibular disorder and rely more on my eyes for balance. I’ve been managing it well, and I hadn’t fallen in about four or five years. It was a startling wake-up call that the vestibular disorder is still there and that I need to be a little more careful when walking in the dark…even if I feel like a warrior out there.
In a way, all of us with vestibular disorders are warriors. We battle our symptoms every day to push forward and live our lives as best we can. Somedays the sidewalk and the vestibular system wins; other days, we win the day’s battle. Even warriors need help though, which is why I am asking you to donate to Vestibular Disorders Association so that they can continue spreading awareness, providing support, and advocating for those of us with vestibular disorders. Thank you so much for your support!
...If you'd like to see a clip of me race walking in Portland to Coast Relay, follow this link: https://youtu.be/Dkkh7WXNdm8
(Vestibular warning for lots of motion on my PTC2015 race video)