Stephanie Harlow: My Life, My Journey

STEPHANIE HARLOW

I get asked all the time, Why do race soooooo much??  My response is, “Actually I’ve slowed down a lot!” Although I still average 2-4 races a month!  Besides my complete love of the medals… Why do I race so much? Let me explain by starting where my obsession with running/racing began!

In 2012, nearing the age of 40 I decided to start running to become healthier. I wasn’t a huge “racer” but did do my share of half marathons and 5ks. My Boyfriend, Whom is now my husband, knew how much running meant to me and proposed at the finish line of one of my half marathons in November of 2012! We got married in September of 2013 and life was great! Running was awesome! But then….

In February 2015 the disease called Trigeminal Neuralgia found me and has relentlessly stalked me ever since! This disease has been referred to as the “suicide disease” given the amount of people who commit suicide to “stop the pain”. Before I was diagnosed, I had never heard of TN and the name just sounded scary!

TN is a rare neurological disease that causes “lightening sharp” pain through the three branches of nerves on either side of the face. For me, the disease effects my right side. These attacks can be triggered by anything– brushing your hair or teeth, ya that hurts! Or even the wind on your face…. Hard to run without a breeze! But, because my TN also came with unexplained brain swelling, My neurologists pulled the plug on my running!

But anyone that knows me will tell you, I don’t take “You can’t” as an order, but as a challenge!  A chance to prove to myself “I can”! So through all the Blood test…. MRIs…. And spinal taps…

I put on my big girl pants and pushed forward like never before. I couldn’t train much for the next 8 months, so my first race after diagnosis was excruciating. I seriously saw the angel of death at mile 10… In the terms of massive pressure from the brain swelling and a bloody nose to follow. But…… I pushed through and finished!

After that, I slowly started to increase my training mileage and found that unlike what the Drs had said, running seemed to ease the symptoms of this disease. And when the attacks did occur during a run, I taught myself to push through them! With a greater sense of accomplishment and because of never giving up, I was able to complete 24 Half Marathons and My First FULL marathon all in 2016 Alone!

I still have flair ups and have some sort of pain daily! Sometimes strong enough to stop me in my tracks. But like Forest Gump… I keep running! Through my running I want to show others that Trigeminal neuralgia doesn’t have to run their lives!! Even in pain, I run my life!  My life, My journey!