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My Most Important Mile: Diane Hochhalter

Diane, as she says, "Wearing the only shirt I could wear for the 10K."
Diane, as she says, "Wearing the only shirt I could wear for the 10K."

Another in our series of Most Important Miles to celebrate the fact that we are so grateful for your stories, our collective miles that send strength and love into the world, the community that brings us together, and the simple ability to run. (Find Diane's blog here.)

In October 2013, I crossed, hand in hand with two of my close friends, the finish line of the Twin Cities Marathon in St. Paul Minnesota.

In February 2014, I was walking like a funky chicken.

What started as a facial spasming and twitching progressed into something that affected my ability to walk normally, speak fluently, process thoughts and situations like I had been able to previously. Essentially whatever was afflicting me took the life I had, shook it up, and dumped it all over the floor. For about two weeks every noise was amplified, every light was intensified, and the simple task of lifting my leg to walk up a step escaped me. My brain said, "Step up." My quad muscles said, "We don't compute."  I stuttered, I wobbled, I was quite the show!  Four doctors, a gazillion and a half tests later resulted in about four different opinions and lots of "normal" findings.

About six weeks into this ordeal, most of the sensory overload feelings had diminished but I still strutted like a chicken. We headed to The Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. As we crossed the Mississippi, I lost it looking down on the grassy area where I had finished a half marathon that past summer. In the distance was the Capitol building, where I had ended the most amazing 26.2 miles I had ever experienced.

At Mayo, I met with an very kind and gentle physician who finally gave me some insight to what was affecting my walk.  He was unable to really determine what caused me to lose proprioception (knowing where a body part lies in space) of my hips and upper leg. That said, because the situation lasted about two weeks, my body had quickly adapted to this new form of walking.

As a runner this made perfect sense because so many of our aches and pains are actually caused by our body compensating for something else going on. He essentially said I needed to retrain myself to walk, toe to heel, almost like a toddler. The ironic and funny thing about this is my 9-year-old son had told me before the visit, "Mom, you just need to put one foot in front of the other and walk heel to toe." Had  I listened to him, we would not be out several thousand dollars. Live and learn...

This was in early April of 2014, and in this neck of the woods, May brings the Fargo Marathon. (You betcha!) I had planned on another half marathon before all this chaos started. As my walking quickly returned back to normal (thank God for good muscle memory!) and I got stronger, I set my sights on the 10K of the race weekend. I told everyone I planned to walk it—Ok, maybe throw some spurts of running in there—but mostly walk.

Race morning brought the usual energetic excitement that I've come to love about the Fargo Marathon. It was a brisk morning and me and 10,000 of my closest friends lined up on Memorial bridge spanning the Red River.  I stood and soaked it all in, amazed at the journey my life had taken over the last 3 months.

I had one secret goal: Run one mile. After that, it didn't matter. I could walk or run.

My husband and I started together, even though he and his long gazelle legs were practically walking to stay with my turtle pace. He had been through all of the craziness with me, literally holding my hand so I would stay stable. As we came upon the one mile sign, the tears flowed. I couldn't help it.  Two months prior I couldn't walk from my bedroom to the kitchen without stopping three times, and I had just covered mile.

There is no doubt the strength that running, and especially training for a marathon instilled in me, helped me achieve that mile. And I don't necessarily mean physical strength.

I ran/walked that 10K in 1:17. The last two songs that played on my playlist were The Fighter by Gym Class Heroes and Pompeii by Bastille. I wept at the finish. Tears of joy, tears of gratitude, tears of acceptance.

If I were to say that everything is back to normal, it wouldn't be true. I still have weakness in my left leg, I still have occasional spasms of my face and neck that last several minutes. I am due for more testing.

I'm not sure what lies ahead, but I know that hotel rooms for Fargo 2015 are already booked.

(Great) Update: So... the plan this year is to be support/cheering squad for my hubby when he runs the 10K in Fargo. I had planned on doing the 10k also, but found out that--don't laugh--my ballet recital is the day after the race, and we've been working on this piece since fall. I started taking the class to help strengthen my core and weaker leg, and I have a huge new appreciation for ballerinas. Holy cannoli do they make dancing look easy, and it is not. This summer will probably bring some shorter races and possibly a longer one this fall!

What was (or will be) the most important mile? Share it with us! Best way to submit is to email us your story with a picture: runmother {at} gmail {dot} com with “Most Important Mile” in the subject line. Please try to keep your mile stories around 400 words. Thank you!

6 responses to “My Most Important Mile: Diane Hochhalter

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story of strength and perseverance. It’s so hard when our bodies don’t do what we want them to do. You are going to rock your ballet recital!

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