A Recovering Runner Inspired

I am a runner.  I’ve always been a runner. Now, I’m a recovering runner.

And I’m inspired.

aurita - maldonado running

I find it slightly ironic that my entire life I’ve been thought of as “different” for wanting to run epic long distances (I mean, really, where I’ve grown up, most people don’t express a ton of excitement to join you on a 15+ mile run to go get breakfast, even if the return 15 miles is a little bit slower), but now that I’m in recovery, and for the first time of my life, physically challenged by covering distance, I just so happen to live in the Endurance Town, USA.

Moab, Utah.

Talk about a startling awakening. Living in central PA for the beginning months of my recovery made me feel like an absolute super star.

When the general population of an area considers walking to the car to drive to the supermarket…all the while vying for the closes parking spot to the door, or a casual walk around the block wearing headphones to drown out reality a workout, it’s quite easy to feel active, even if you are struggling to recover from a parasitic meningitis and learning to walk again, teach Zumba for one hour, and then spending the next 10 hours on the couch in the fetal position recovering from your outburst of energy.

Moab doesn’t quite have that same effect. I’m surrounded by people who realize the beauty in movement and being outdoors. Also by those in love with endurance. A casual walk to them is just that.

A casual walk.

This past Saturday was the Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5 Miler. The intersection at both ends of my street met up with the race course. The only way I could have ignored the event was by not leaving the house until mid-afternoon.

half marathon picture

We all know that’s not my style.

After a stint of basking in the warm desert morning sun at my favorite cafe, dreaming of running, I rode my bike back over to the intersection, and watched runners, cheering at the top of my lungs. I decided I’d try to make as many people smile as I possibly could.  My goal was set. 😀

The finish line cheering I’ve done after any race has always been my second favorite part of running races.

In my silly rants, raves, and flamboyant praising, my mind brushed over that flourescent pink elephant, lying in plain sight.


I found myself saying more often than not to anyone who looked defeated or lost, overweight or injured, but was struggling to charge on, “You are an inspiration. Thank you for being out here! You are AMAZING!” Inevitably, they smiled, and I remain inspired.

I found myself connecting strongly with the excited runners in the middle to end of the pack. “WOOT WOOT! Beautiful day to be moving!” They were already smiling, but now they made eye contact. Most even laughed and openly agreed.

I was running vicariously through their movement. Sweating through their efforts. A symbiotic positive energetic exchange. How great to be in the sun sharing in someone’s excitement for one of your passions!

I also found myself blurting out, “Do it for someone who CAN’T! Enjoy it because you CAN!” We all know from where that stems.  I was preaching that long before I was paralyzed.

I left my cheering station with a pep in my peddle. I rode my bike in circles around John, chirping excitedly about being inspired by the back of the pack runners, as he walked to Raven’s Rim Zipline for a quick zip.

Ravens Rim Rita

When we arrived, we quickly met the other two folks who’d signed up for the trip. I immediately noticed….


We introduced ourselves to our new friends, Aaron and Hanna, who had just finished the half marathon. They were explaining that although they had just completed the race, they were ready to 4 wheel, hike, and zip before going on a road trip that evening to get to Four Corners, and their ultimate party destination.

Zip Line Moab Hanna Aaron

I immediately wanted to hug them, share with them my excitement, similar stories, etc…but there was that catch again…

That life was then…

Before the parasites.

This is now.

I refrained from raining on their parade with the typical sad ex-serious athlete, “I used to be that way, but….” conversation that I constantly had to endure from my broken “leaders” in the military as a young soldier (the same naysayers who said my running life would screech to a halt when I turned 30…because things just change when you hit 30).

I smiled at their plans instead, and told them what an amazing experience it sounded like they’ve had and will continue having. There was, however, an interesting hint of deep longing in the pit of my gut as I expressed my honestly belief in what they were doing.

As much of a reminder of my illness as Saturday had been, it was also a direct reflection of the growing I’ve had to do. It has been tough returning from Afghanistan with demons haunting my waking and sleeping moments, using running and endurance to work through them slowly and intricately, becoming an ultra runner, then being paralyzed and learning to walk again with nerve damage that challenges me by the minute.

From 50 miles to 0 in a matter of weeks.

Seeing these kids with boundless energy, a fun itinerary of their own, quick smiles and laughter, and hopelessly in love doubly inspired this recovering runner. I had “that” realization I have most days at some point: I’m simply not in the same shape I had been in during my visit to Seattle over the Marathon weekend/salsa congress episode, and that’s OK.

I don’t see next weekend as a weekend I’ll be physically capable of dancing over 40 hours from Thursday until Sunday in 2.5 inch heels, while racing a 5k and a full marathon under 4 hours (after a super restful half hour nap at the start).

A non runner would logically respond, “So? That’s ridiculous anyway!” Well, most people might respond that way. I’ve been told by so many people not to run in my life, or that it’s a waste of time, because they don’t understand the passion, the connection with Earth, the communication with your spirit through movement! Even my own mother told me that it’s too boring for her to ever want to come to support.

I learned early that running was a solitary and extremely personal exercise. It’s time you get to be alone with your thoughts, your inspirations. YOU choose how you feel emotionally the entire time. YOU choose how fast you push.

You. And. You. Alone.

NOBODY ELSE can be blamed for your lack of connection or passion. JUST YOU.

Live, laugh, love, recover, run.

And remember:

“Strangers are not strangers, but friends you simply have not met yet!”




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8 Responses to A Recovering Runner Inspired

  1. Hanna Henson March 28, 2014 at 11:28 AM #


    Wow!! What a writer! What an inspiration! You’re humble, grateful nature paired with your extreme perseverance will get you far and back out on on the trails!

    I am glad Aaron and I could be a small part of your amazing story of recovery! Never give up! God has great plans for you! Please let me know if you and John are ever in Arizona!

    Lots of Love….new friend!


    • Hurricane Rita April 9, 2014 at 9:05 PM #

      Hanna! You two were great! Thank you for gracing Moab with your energy! We’ll definitely dropped a line if we head that direction! 😀

  2. Dan April 1, 2014 at 8:22 PM #

    An old friend of mine says that if he doesn’t have his daily jog (2 to 3 miles) after work to get away from it all and relieve the stress from his job, then he’s like a hyper-stressed crazy person the next day. The running “grounds him”, brings him back to reality, rejuvenates him. He says “running is like a good medicine”.

    • Hurricane Rita April 9, 2014 at 9:04 PM #

      It truly is good medicine! If I hadn’t burnt that energy off as a kid, who knows what I’d have ended up doing…that’s half of the battle to get back to it!!!!

  3. Geert Rongen April 13, 2014 at 3:28 PM #

    Hi Rita, we met you during one of our trips to Alaska in Haines and just this evening we were talking about you as an inspiring young lady, we where not aware of your story in life neither why you selected the theis title for your website. The funny part was that we only remembered this name and started to look for you. Our daughter is sailng on board of the HAL and that’s why we joined her to visit Alaska. For me the highlight was still the trip on the river with you, we were not aware of your history or your story but experienced a very intelligent and nice young lady.As a runner myself I can imagine a bit where you have gone through and I admire your strength enormously. Reading your life story We can only pay respect to you as a fellow runner but more so as a great inspirational young women. Dear Rita we wish you a lot of luck and happiness in the time to come and a great hug from Wilma and Geert xxx

    • Hurricane Rita April 14, 2014 at 11:26 AM #

      Wow! Guiding is such an awesome job! I love getting contacted down the road from strangers I’ve proven were friends I simply hadn’t met yet when we crossed paths! I’m excited you remembered the site so long and looked it up! Come to Moab, and we’ll go for a jog (a slow one…and not too far…but a jog nonetheless).

  4. angela July 20, 2014 at 6:15 PM #

    I just wanted to say I came across your blog by chance, looking up how to wean of gabapentin. Id have to admit that I haven’t been able to stop reading your blog for the past few hours now, well 7am to be exact. You are a true inspiration to me and I want you to know that. I just got off drugs after 9 years I just turned 30 in feb and am in the process of turning my whole life around for my son whos 8 and my family and self. I could start crying right now so I should stop. I wish you the best!!!


    • Hurricane Rita July 28, 2014 at 3:30 PM #

      Thank you for the kind words! AND thank you for reading. Congratulations on your progress and decision to refocus! Crying, dear, is super-allowed…even encouraged! Let it out, so you can let it go, then you can simply smile and inspire. 😀

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