In fewer than two years, I traveled the distance from relative couch potato to New York City Marathon finisher. It was not without discomfort, and there were a few minor bumps along the way, but I pretty much got through unscathed and emerged at the end of the 26.2 miles not a little bit triumphant. Feeling seriously unstoppable pretty much summed up my mood.
Nothing like a little leg injury to bum your natural high and bring the whole damn thing to a screeching halt.
The knowledge that I finished that race made me turn a blind eye to cues from my body that I might want to slow my roll for a little while to recover (see “unstoppable”, above). So I ignored the persistent ache in my shin and showed up at the start of a 13.1-mile Turkey Trot three weeks post-marathon. I mean, it was only a Half – pfft. No sweat. And it was great – pushed through the pain and earned a PR (because that’s what “real” runners do, right?) I thought it was great. But my left shin? Not so much.
Four days later we were set to run a Thanksgiving 5k (because, really, is one turkey trot per holiday really enough?) Objectively, I knew this was not the best idea given the stabbing pain in my leg when I walked, but in my defense I was a little justified. My family of four was going to run a race together for the first time in years, it was for the local food bank, and it was only 3.1 miles – I could handle anything for 3.1 miles (again, unstoppable). The decision to run this race went from bad to worse when, in the final stretch, I had an age-group-equivalent runner ahead of me in my sights, I knew that we probably were vying for placing in our age group, and my husband was yelling at me from the sidelines to “CATCH HER” with the intensity of a drill sergeant. And so I did.
Which is really ridiculous first, because at that point it felt like someone was pounding an ice pick into my leg every time my foot hit pavement and, second, did I mention that this was a charity family fun run?
We have a few rules in our house, and as our kids have moved into the teenage years, all of the rules pretty much all boil down to this family creed: “Just don’t make dumb decisions.” Kids, Mom violated the rule.
In the category of “you’re never too old to learn”, I’ve spent the past three weeks slowly working my way back to running, and trying to be a little smarter than I was. It has been painful. There is that sinking sad feeling I get when I see a runner outside getting it done while I am sentenced to time on an elliptical trainer or on the couch with an ice pack. Then there is the physical discomfort that takes me from a short, tentative run to a walk. And there is the persistent panic inside of me that if I do not push through this and run, I will lose the momentum I gained over the past many months.
But I also have this: learned and determined patience.
I can think of no accomplishment in my life that was ever gained without an investment of time, and days/weeks/months/years worth of effort and commitment, be it in marriage or parenting, or in my education or career. Even with the marathon, there was a slow, daily, sometimes barely-measurable progress that took me from my first training run to the New York finish line. I could not get to the end goal by skipping over steps, or ignoring the middle stages. No more can I heal if I do not take it bit by bit.
I will get there. Because that “unstoppable” feeling … it has not gone away.