Ben Woodbeck November 18, 2011 TWEET COMMENTS 2

Pacing Diana - Page 11

She would receive dialysis another 11 times. Some doctors were hopeful; some were not. "I was in the best shape of my life a week ago," she said when a doctor left the room, after he told us she may not regain kidney function, she may be on dialysis the rest of her life or, if she was lucky, get a transplant, "and there's no way I won't recover from this. No fucking way."

And so it was—slowly at first her numbers got better, then urine output picked up. It seemed like her kidneys were awakening, on their own time, after a two-week rest. Miraculous. "I knew it," she said.

Where did all this leave running? Is that a ridiculous question? It was one we both wondered about but did not mention.

Asking about running is just another way to wonder, what is it for? Just as ineffable as why one would climb a mountain, or kayak a river, or jump from an airplane, I guess. Running makes life more worthwhile, maybe; it gives a little definition outside the confines and strictures of work and family. It offers a community, one in which we can be individuals, ourselves, sometimes our best selves. It reminds us what is important, somehow, even if it does so by reminding us that running is not really that important. Relationships are important; another truth tat we know but sometimes forget. We did not set out to learn these things, and maybe will only know them while the memory of the hospital, which is the searing memory of the Hardrock, is still glowing in us. It will wear off, yes, and we will run and ski and travel again and will forget to remember how important our kidneys are. Thank god. The other lessons we hope to keep.

Diana was nervous about anyone finding out. Private by nature, she did not want her weakness, her kidney failure, to stand for anything other than something that happened to her. Embarrassed, still, by the poor form she thinks she showed those last 20 miles.

It was not because she was a woman, it was not because she ran too fast, it was, according to her doctors, just something that happens, and no one can be sure why. Electrolyte imbalance? Dehydration? Those things aren't necessarily the cause. Everyone who finishes Hardrock has an elevated creatinine level in his or her blood. Everyone is dehydrated, the electrolytes in extreme flux. It is a mystery. Something else we learned—science can only take you so far, then there is the unknown.

And me? Am I to blame, as her pacer? We do talk in shorthand out there, but one thing we don't have shorthand for, we never talk about, whether she's pacing me or I her: the pacer never talks about quitting. I knew she was hurting, yet laying the idea of quitting on the table never entered my mind. That would be, always, her decision. You run these things alone, even if you are with someone; the choice, always, is yours.


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