A few months ago, a coworker commented on the fact that all of my self-photos on Facebook were taken after a race, when I was all sweaty and tired looking. She diagnosed (with a smile on her face) that I must have some sort of obsession with running and perhaps should seek professional help. I smiled back at the suggestion and headed into my office, assuming that I was a well-rounded enough person to have more than one hobby in my life. And I sit here today knowing that I do have other hobbies: reading, dancing around my apartment (while kind-of cleaning), travel, singing (as long as I’m alone in the car or bathroom), and decoupage.
But after the past two weeks, I also have to acknowledge that my friend was right too. About three weeks ago, I started using the stair machine at the gym (or what my friend Nikki calls the Stairway to Hell). I would use it for 22 minutes, or the length of an episode of Go On on my iPad, and then walk on the treadmill for an hour before heading home. So on that Tuesday when my thigh started hurting a little, I figured it was just a new muscle group being used and backed off a bit to give it time to recover. Then over the weekend, I had a great time running an evening Summer Solstice 5K on Friday, did some solo running downtown on Saturday morning, and was on time for my Sunday morning running group. I kept up with four other women on Sunday morning, turning back towards the start before them because of a halff marathon coming up. Suddenly around mile 6, my left calf (the same leg as the sore thigh) felt light it had gotten a significant bruising and I had to walk for a few minutes. I was able to mostly jog the final two miles back to my car but for the rest of the day I was limping through life. And the pain was still there Monday morning. And Tuesday morning. And Wednesday when I finally went to the doctor. When she asked me what I hoped to achieve through the appointment, my quick response was “drugs and a diagnosis.” What I was too embarrassed or afraid to ask for was the promise that I would be able to run again. As she worked through the tests, I slowly realized I was more worried about not being able to run than not being able to walk. And how messed up those priorities were. Or were they?
I walked out of my appointment that day with a semi-diagnosis (strained muscles due to overuse) and a prescription for ibuprofen and muscle relaxers. Success! Oh, and I wasn’t supposed to do any jarring exercise like, oh say running for a while. I couldn’t look my doctor in the eye at that point as I did the quick math to realize I was 8 days away from my scheduled and paid for 10th half marathon. I knew that as long as I could walk, I was heading to the Foot Traffic Flat on Sauvie Island July 4th.
I didn’t ask anyone if they thought I should still do the run, because I knew every logical friend, family member, neighbor, pet, and lawn gnome around me would say I shouldn’t. That I should just forget the entry fee and focus on recovery. And every single one of them would be right.
But I had to. I hurt myself a bit more and yet I don’t regret the choice. I ran slowly, walked often, and played leapfrog with a woman in a sparkly skort. During the Newport Marathon, where I had to walk several miles due to illness and exhaustion, I was brought to new understandings of giving in versus giving up, the importance of completing the journey, and how support is never limited by location. This time, I learned about the community I’ve gained through running, one that I am not willing to lose, and about knowing something is just a little bit foolish, and doing it anyways.
My leg is finally truly improving, thanks to medication, rest, and a massage that left several bruises on my leg. Getting hurt helped me to realize that my friend’s diagnosis a few months ago was right. I’m obsessed and well-rounded. And I’m okay with that.