A Mile in Her Own Shoes
Survivor and athlete Alisha Park enjoys a running session.
Sunday, May 24, 2015, was no regular Sunday. Sure, it was Memorial Day weekend, but it was also the day I ran with Audrey, my closest high school friend and former teammate, on a local outdoor track at Danehy Park in Cambridge, Mass. We met up in the morning and planned to run a mile together, but this was no ordinary run. I finished my first official mile in more than seven years.
Seven years might be a long time without running a mile, but time didn’t matter to me. I was just happy to meet my goal. Plus, I’m no regular young adult. At 16, I had a hemorrhagic stroke from an AVM (arteriovenous malformation), leaving my left side weak.
During high school, I was a varsity rower and ran indoor track. I returned to rowing six months after the stroke and figured running would pick up soon after. However, it proved more challenging than I expected. Exercise in general became mentally tedious at times and soon the motivation to row or run began to fade. A part of me felt embarrassed, tired and frustrated to move in front of others even when it was fun. I rested from both activities my first year at Bryn Mawr College.
It was during that time I tried yoga for my required gym class. Yoga gave me the positive mindset to accept my physical setbacks and limitations. Realizing I missed rowing more than ever, I returned to the water the following year and didn’t stop until graduation.
For several years, I could not run more than half a mile. While on a visit, my father coaxed me out to a local park to try running again. He said anxiety was preventing me from running a longer distance. When I could relax my body and ignore others staring at my leg brace, I would be able to run farther. That comment sparked something in my mind and the motivation to run began flowing.
I promised him during that outing I would exercise more frequently and practice running at least once a week. Afterwards, early every Sunday morning, I ran around at my local track adding one more lap each week. Running a mile was going to happen in no time! The missing pieces were slowly fitting together.
Recovering from a stroke has taught me patience, resilience and the determination to never give up on goals, even when they seem farfetched. Once I ran with my good friend and pre-stroke running buddy, I soared. Next up, completing a 5K!