In March, I decided to celebrate my impending 30 years of living with HIV by doing another ridiculously unexpected thing—it being of a physical nature, there was no way I could do it for myself.
(Un)naturally, I decided to run the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon for The Grassroot Project (an MTV Staying Alive grantee) on May 19. You read that right: from the couch to a half marathon in 9 weeks, but with HIV. There’s a hospital on the half-marathon course and a team of athletes at my disposal, so I’m content with my contingency plan.
I can now see how living with HIV has prepared me to be a runner:
- You need a training schedule, and you need to stick to it: Because I was antiretroviral-free for a while, I used single-dose multivitamins and oral contraceptives to prepare myself for habitually taking pills for several months, so that when I started HIV treatment again I would be more adherent. 2 years later, I still take my HIV drugs—1 pill twice a day at 7 am and 7 pm. I still stick to the same routine now that I’m running, except I’ve already had a 60 min workout before my 7 am dose.
- If it’s in the chest you must rest: I was never diligent with taking a rest prescription. I’m known to wear face masks, following a cold, into my office that sport inscriptions of “FACE CONDOM” and “REINFECTION PROTECTION.” Actually, I recently recovered from a second episode of bronchitis; the onset of which occurred near the end of training week 3. However, this time rest was even more important because the exertion from running could cause pneumonia (+1 for running).
- Eat more and eat well: When I was diagnosed with HIV as a child, I met with many nutritionists to evaluate my dietary intake—it’s very important that people with HIV get proper nutrition—so that aspect of training doesn‘t change much, except now that I’m running, I eat constantly. Hungry hungry T-cells. I’ve had issues gaining weight because of my small build and use of antiretroviral drugs (another +1 for running).
- The unexpected happens: The recent unfortunate events at the Boston marathon don’t change my decision to run. Living with HIV has taught me how to keep moving forward with the unexpected. As one of the first-generation infants to have lived with HIV for almost three decades, I’m writing the book on the unexpected in a positive light. Moving forward is the single most powerful way to defeat fear and stigma.
Stay tuned to see how Team Grassroots conquers the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon the same way I conquer my HIV: with planning, endurance, flexibility, and a healthy appetite for life.