My running practice stopped after I slipped on a patch of ice and sprained my ankle while traveling in the mountains a little over three months ago. I walked up the stairs and couldn’t put weight on my feet and went from mile to mile logging to the lips. Over time, my injuries have healed, and I am now able to do jump squats and hikes again. And, finally, last month I decided to test the water with a run. The plan was to have an ultra-slow, 20-minute jug, I decided. I would stop if I got hurt.
I bought a brace from the pharmacy and am feeling incredibly excited. This feeling lasted as I got into my running shorts, my ultra-light top, my running hat and belt and shoes. I missed this thing! Putting it on made me feel like a version of myself that I loved. I fired up my playlist and set up.
My body is strong and capable, and it doesn’t change because I wasn’t able to do what I did three months ago.
Immediately, everything felt different. The start of a run was enjoyable, because I was running without working myself. It seemed that day, running with molasses. My ankle was fine, but my calves were burning and my hamstrings were hurting. Worst of all, I felt pain in my lower back – a sign that my core muscles were weak. I realized that two and a half months had put all those specialized tiny muscles that support a race – which I had developed in the last two years without really realizing it – into hibernation mode.
Feeling defeated, I calmed down as I walked and called my mother. I almost broke down in tears. I was angry at myself for slipping on that ice, and shaking my body to go backwards for what it felt like in such a short time. How did this happen in just two months? How could the peace of a small, easy run be stolen from me so quickly?
But there was nothing to do but continue because I had an event coming up that involved a run and I wasn’t going backwards. It was on the beach, the site where I ran my longest distance (five miles), the place I always feel the best.
During my training, I chose to use guided runs from the Nike Run Club app. One day, halfway through the 30-minute race, the narrator, Coach Bennett, asked me to think of a word to describe how I wanted to feel. I immediately thought: Enlivened! I’ve always felt like running for about 15 minutes. But then I realized that I was nothing but energy. I was tired, and in pain, and that feeling was probably not going anywhere. Maybe, I thought, I could choose a new, better word for the moment, and I took “acceptance” with me.
As I acknowledged my tired body I repeated it to myself over and over again. That’s right, I thought. I can be tired and slow. If I’m still tired, I can walk for 30 seconds and catch my breath. I was living in struggle, and by living in it instead of being angry at it I was able to go through it. I finished the run.
The ultimate lesson of humility and acceptance in running back. It made me humble how quickly change could happen, and I had to adjust myself to how much was out of my control. But I am also fascinated by the resilience of the human body. My body is strong and capable, and it doesn’t change because I wasn’t able to do what I did three months ago. I am learning again how to move forward, and feel more grateful for my love of overall health and mobility.
After many miles (and a few more cries), I made it on the day of the event. Immediately fell behind the pack, absolutely the last person. I accepted that. I was going slow, but it was beautiful, and my body wasn’t hurting badly in any way. I was able to run for 27 minutes, and yes I felt muscle pain, but also excitement. Was I back? I was back!
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