What saved my life was connecting with other people who had arthritis and seeing them struggle with the same problems I had. As they helped me feel better about myself, I slowly began to recover from bulimia. It wasn’t an epiphany, and I still battle every day not to revert to that destructive behavior. But these days I get out of bed every morning and go to a job I love, helping people with disabilities find meaningful jobs. I work alongside colleagues whom I adore. I talk to friends and family who support me in everything I do, and I run with my buddies at least once a week. Quite a change from just five short years ago, when I prayed I would fall asleep and not wake up.

Now, I thought, I was strong enough to reconnect with my younger self and reclaim my childhood dream.

Getting Stronger and Faster, Physically

I started running again in 2003, when I began taking a biologic. I admit, going on this new drug was a little weird at first. For 10 years I woke up stiff and achy every morning. I was never sure what I was going to feel like on a day-to-day basis, so I tried not to make a lot of plans in advance. But after starting the biologic, I had tons of energy. I still had plenty of reminders that I had arthritis: I was giving myself two shots per week, had blood tests every six weeks, and still took handfuls of pills every day. However, within about a week of starting the biologic I entered my first race, a 5K Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell Run. And I knew I wanted to aim for a marathon.

I joined a group of runners in a 26-week program sponsored by Sportsbackers, my local sports commission. We were all training for the same goal, and we quickly grew close, running together three or four times a week. My running partner, Fred, and I got to be good friends. He was 45 and training for his first marathon, too. When we first started, I couldn’t keep up with him. Then I started a new biologic and got stronger and faster, and was able to run at his pace. Fred knew all my hopes and dreams about this race – and my fears, too, of not being able to finish. So many people knew I was running this race. How would I face them if I didn’t make it to the finish line?

Getting Stronger and Clearer, Mentally

I kept training and dreaming for five months, and became injured. A sports medicine specialist diagnosed a probable stress fracture in my pelvis and said most people take at least six to eight weeks to heal. But the marathon was in three weeks! He suggested I do cross-training – stretching and spending two to three hours on a bike at the gym – and then come back three days before the race. Even then, I had only a 25 percent chance of being able to run.

I was devastated. I just wanted to give up. Why spend all that time in the gym for the next three weeks when I probably wouldn’t be running anyway? Why try for anything, when I was sure to be disappointed? I felt just as I had when I was a kid – worthless, a failure.

But then I began to think about what I really wanted. A quote from John “The Penguin” Bingham, a writer and marathoner, came to my mind: “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” I thought about everyone who could run a marathon but hasn’t. I could spend the rest of my life saying that was my dream, or I could accept where I was and do something about it. What I did now would be a reflection of how I faced adversity throughout my life. And I would rather try and fail than say, “I wish I would have done this.”