The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of My Feet

April 3, 2011

“There can be be ability with endurance sports such as marathon running,” big-name AS expert Tony Attwood writes on the subject of movement and coordination in “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. “Once the running movement has become efficient, the person with Asperger’s syndrome can be remarkably tolerant of discomfort and able to just keep running.”

I often think about this comment on my runs.

It is true for me that I needed to train myself to run efficiently. As a child, I had the kind of awkward gait that is often symptomatic of Asperger’s. In my case, it involved toeing in and a rather unfortunate shift in the hip joint that was only efficient in shifting and sculpting my shorts into some monumental wedgies. The issue had become almost invisible by the time I first dabbled in running in my late teens after becoming obsessed with Run Lola Run, but it was enough to cause all sorts of pain and frustration. If any boyfriend of mine had lost a bag full of money on the subway, he’d clearly have been fucked.

Since then, I’ve tried and quit a number of times, but it’s only within the past couple of years that I’ve become strong, muscularly balanced and bodily aware enough to run with any sort of success. My gait still isn’t perfect, but it’s only really noticeable if you study footage of me, and it’s been modified enough to take care of my chronic issues with shin splints and foot flop. It’s enough of a transformation that it could probably merit a Bob Lamonta-style Lifetime movie.

But “remarkably tolerant of discomfort?”

I don’t think I’m as sensitive as I could be. I did once compete in a jiu jitsu tournament after breaking a toe. But I did also flop around on the mat like Gollum and almost vomit after the injury occurred. So I’m not a complete wuss, but I’m not exactly the portrait of high pain tolerance that is often a symptom of AS. I’m high enough on the sissy scale that I consider myself cheated on this account. In fact, it’s probably third on my list of Cool Benefits Of Aspgerger’s On Which I Totally Burned, behind savantism and interests and abilities in subjects that actually make money, like maths and computers.

I have a bit of a mental advantage on long distance runs, because I actually really enjoy doing the same thing a million times in a row and I consider putting one foot in front of the other for miles on end to be soothing as opposed to mind-numbing, but it’s not exactly a fair trade. Yes, I can happily run without music. I can write entire articles in my head on the run. Hell, I can even get in some mindfulness meditation while I’m out there. But I’d give all of that up for even a touch of that remarkable tolerance.

You see, I ran my first race ever yesterday, a rather hilly 8k course. It went far better than I expected, especially considering the fact that my last few weeks of training consisted of messing up a tendon while moving and taking a week to rest and recuperate, the Chariots of Fail run detailed a few posts back, and another week off with a menacing cold. I came in a little under the 50 minute mark, which is about what I was hoping for at this point in my running career, especially with that elevation gain.

I’m happy with my performance. I’m very happy with my mental focus, especially given the fact that I’m not used to running in crowds. But I wasn’t thinking about my achievements, my burgeoning competitive spirit, or my “inspirational triumph over disability” as I struggled up the final hill, a 600m beast intent on turning my aching legs, asthmatic lungs and bowels against me. I was mostly thinking “Tony Attwood’s full of shit.”

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3 Responses to “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of My Feet”

  1. Jane Says:

    Yeah , you !!! Awesome run.

  2. Mark Says:

    As a parent of a child with aspergers this just show me how individual the aspergers experience can be as running for my son is a complete nightmare for him and for anyone near him.


    • It really is true that if you know one person with Asperger’s you’ve know one person with Asperger’s.
      That said, I was a lot like your son when I ran as a child. Or when I attempted any physical activity, for that matter.


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