A Sword. A Shield. A Red Cape.
So some friends and I are on our way to Sparta and it’s kind of a big deal. I haven’t let on how terrified I am, but there’s no turning back. We’re definitely going. There are lots of reasons for me to chicken out, my limitations sometimes keep me from the basics like walking or breathing freely, but I’ve been training and eating right and thinking happy thoughts (most of the time). And who am I to punk out when there are so many people stricken with way worse ailments than mine and who’d love to be able to do what I still can?
We’re all on personal quests to live our best lives in spite of curve balls we’ve been thrown. For some, victory is making it around the block without keeling over, or buttoning up a shirt, or simply getting out of bed. Even the smallest triumphs over disability are priceless and I’m on a continuous hunt for mine.
In June, I’m participating in a Reebok Spartan Sprint race in the wilds of upstate New York to remind myself that despite tremors, an occasional limp, some weakness, numbness on one side of my face, or spasms in my arm, I’m still a badass. And that’s all there is to it. I suppose I do have a chip on my shoulder (it’s called MS), and I suppose I am always trying to prove something. But is that so unreasonable? Is it wrong for me to refuse status quo versions of health and ability? What if I’ve done the survival thing, and now I want to thrive? It’s just a few lesions on my brain and spinal cord. So what?
Now, one doesn’t jump up and go to Sparta all willy nilly, just because it’s cute. I thought long and hard about putting myself in harm’s way like this and there are preparations to be made. In keeping with mythic Spartan references, I figure there are a few things I’ll need.
You can’t very well go to Sparta without a weapon, and the folks back in hallowed antiquity carried swords. You never knew what two-headed creature or vicious mercenary was going to cross your path in those days, so you had to be armed. Karate taught me to turn my whole body into a weapon, so for the next six weeks it’s going to be all about burpees and running uphill in the park. All about jumping rope and sandbag squats in my living room. All about bear crawling and pull-ups on the jungle gym in the playground across the street. All about mountain climbers, taking the stairs to my fifteenth floor apartment, and planking. Yeah, planking. If all that doesn’t turn me into a sword, I don’t know what will.
A warrior’s shield protected him from the enemy’s blows and the artillery that rained down in the heat of battle. I’m more concerned about getting overheated in the sun while I’m running, or dragging a cinder block, or actually leaping over flames. So my shield will be made up of ice packs and bottled water. It’ll be made of a waterproof heart rate monitor strapped around my chest to remind me to pace myself to avoid the shakes. It’ll be a good pair of sneakers for when I’m trudging through gravel and mud, and knee pads for when I’m crawling in it. I’ve been popping fish oil pills every day and trying to get enough sleep so I’ll be in top form when the day comes.
A Red Cape
Aside from the blood, sweat, and tears in anticipation of the blood, sweat, and more tears, you know your girl has got to look good. Fashion-wise, Sparta will be all about a sporty/functional look. Sturdy footwear, fresh socks, and laces double-knotted for safety, breathable shorts with undergarments I won’t mind tossing when it’s all over, a good sports bra with a tank over it, and maybe a bandanna (I know my hair is getting muddy no matter what). I’m not too vain to forgo make-up and jewelry since they have no place on Spartan grounds anyway. But I will need something fabulous to call glory to my cause. Something that will float in the wind and brush my shoulders like wings. Something fierce that makes me feel superhuman as soon as put it on.
I need a red cape.