I found Lisa Tamati’s book on the running shelf at my favorite bookstore. Although I had been running and participating in adventure races for years, I hadn’t heard of her, and that makes me mad. Most people probably have no awareness of the incredible feats of female extreme athletes like Tamati. She doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. If I had known about women like her when I was growing up, I believe I would have developed an interest in fitness and athletics much earlier in life. It’s okay, though, because we’re about the same age and she is a clear demonstration that physical condition shouldn’t hold someone back.
Hospitalized for severe asthma as a child. Broke her back at age 21. Needed a nebulizer while completing a 222k race (137.9 MILES!!!) at nearly 18,000 feet in altitude. Lost her toenails and kept running. Most people with asthma or a broken back would probably excuse themselves from competition forevermore. Tamati shows us that it’s up to us what we choose to attempt and how hard we push ourselves. (Running enough distance to circumnavigate the globe 2.5 times!) She is one example among many of athletes who keep on trucking, even while dealing with fairly major health problems.
I run even though I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at age 23. It could be said that I run because I was diagnosed with a chronic pain/chronic fatigue illness at a young age. Doctors and reference books were united in the opinion that FM patients are “exercise-intolerant.” (Nearly 20 years later, the advice seems to have changed, although no other FM sufferers in my acquaintance do work out). I simply refuse to let a diagnosis determine my fate. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t physically catch on fire or explode if I lost weight and became more active, and as it turns out, I was right. Better than that, I haven’t had a migraine or night terrors in two years, and my newly found fitness level is largely responsible for this victory.
Running to Extremes is a subtly stunning book. Tamati describes her experiences in various races. She details every time she fell or hurt herself or did something embarrassing. Somehow, in between the lines, we realize that she has just organized a couple of national-level events, appeared on television, and completed extreme endurance races that only a handful of other individuals have managed. Her focus is always on looking out for her mates and surmounting pain to complete her latest (world-class) goal. It’s clear that she’s out there to experience whatever she can and to find out just what she’s made of. Reading this book made me want to sign up for my second marathon right away.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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