I’ve been running for 12 years, moderate distance, extreme devotion. I ran ‘the loop’ in our neighborhood, usually the same direction, always the same four days of the week. My running habit began in response to a cheesy article that claimed 20 minutes of daily walking would change my life. Right they were; walking led quickly to running, and - you know what I’m going to say - running changed my life.
Running became a home of sorts, the kind where the phone doesn’t ring, where you can indulge in that strange kind of non-thinking thinking, hear your breathing, feel the elements (lots of these in wpg), sort out your crushes, lose time, gossip to yourself. I ran to celebrate, to mourn, to dissolve the perplexities of the day. I ran through the loneliest and most disappointing stretches of my dissertation. Mostly I just ran to run.
This past Fall I began running with my neighbor, Thursday mornings, 6 a.m., before work. Blizzards, minus 40, ice, unploughed streets and the darkest urban darkness never stopped us. Falling under the influence of his passion for distance running, I began to increase my miles and registered for the Cops half marathon at the start of May. He kindly wrote out a training schedule for me and I knew I was incredibly lucky. My craving to run kept increasing in direct proportion to the accumulating miles. It was a long exhilarating winter; so many new routes, conversations, tunes, stories.
Injury comes to runners in different ways, and mine showed up like a polite but uninvited guest, lingering quietly, awkwardly, at the start of an 11-mile group run. While I was watching the shin pain on my right leg, my left hamstring developed an uninteresting, ‘level one’ strain (coward). I observed a restless two-day rest, then took off for a determined tempo run, full of “now moments” – those riveting seconds of pain or pleasure that don’t allow for outside distraction. Tried another two-day rest. My very last run took me to the Forks but my car had to take me back. That was early April, just as we were heading into the euphoria of single-layer running weather.
The athletic therapist told me what I wanted to hear, “2 – 3 weeks tops,” but speaking like a pregnant woman, I’m in my fifth week. Of not-running. As I intensify my search for signs of improvement, the hamstring situation seems to worsen. No walking beyond 5 minutes. Cycling to and from work is painful.
Not-running is living with the continual presence of absence. I keep turning towards something that is no longer there. I fine-tune my eating and upper body routines, but I cannot go where I need to go, where I dream of going, where I used to go, which is, home.
Courage, fellow runners! Run well… rest well.