Lately my running log has been filled with nothing but big fat zeros.
These zeros taunt me, mess with my mind, and cause me to have some really destructive thoughts:
“You’re too old to run, who are you trying to fool?”
“It’s going to be really hard getting started again and you’ll probably never reach the fitness level you were at before your injury.”
“What if you get out 5 miles and your ankle collapses? What will you do then?”
We’ve all been there. Injury. The mental aspects are in many ways worse than the physical.
It’s been six weeks since I dodged that rolling SUV and stepped into the crater that cut my fall training to smithereens. My ankle is still swollen. I didn’t sprain it, I actually tore the ligaments on both sides – an injury that my doctor (who also runs), says will take at least three full months to heal. I don’t know if I can make it.
Initially, I wore my therapeutic lace-up ankle-supporting boot like a badge of courage. It kind of reminded me of the time I broke my arm in second grade and paraded my heavy plaster cast around in class. I really loved that cast – until it started to itch. When they finally cut if off, my arm looked as white and shriveled as an 80 year old’s. Now, I have to force myself to put the boot thing on and it’s impossible to wear normal shoes. I run around all day in my Uggs or an old pair of Asics. This lace-up contraption was definitely not what I had in mind for a pair of cute new fall boots.
A couple of weeks ago I thought I would test the waters and try walking. I figured a little exercise is better than none, right? So on the boot went, and I headed out for a 2-mile walk. Not surprisingly, this only made me feel worse. Many of you know that I am not a big fan of walking. Even when marathon training the walk breaks feel like a betrayal to me.
I maintained a good pace without much discomfort, but the pleasure just wasn’t there. I could feel every waddle of my butt and thighs (which are growing larger each day that I am “grounded”), and I noticed that even at a walking pace my breath was strained and heavy. Not content to slide along at a 19 minute pace, I tried a short little jog. Immediately my ankle shot me a reminder – “I’m not ready yet, you fool!” I muttered “B*stard!” under my breath.
Of course, having been here before my mind knows that at some point this injury will heal. I will once again stand at the top of my street, punch my Garmin, and feel the wind on my face. I will be able to start my days that way I’ve started them for years – with that precious alone time under a dawning day.
But for now, I will avoid the places that runners frequent in my neighborhood (it’s just too painful to watch), and avoid going out during the two hours our local high school cross-country team is out training. No, they don’t know how good it is to be young and able to run any more than I did at that age.
There is however, at least one great thing about being a “Masters Runner.” You know that when push comes to shove, “This too shall pass.”