Thursday, August 2, 2012

Run for your life

Most of you already know that in January I injured my ankle following a race. At first I thought I'd barrel through, like I always do, mind over matter. I assumed that I would most likely not be able to run for a week, and was infinitely annoyed by this fact, especially because I was training for another race in a couple of months. Well, here we are, in August, and I'm still nursing the same injury. I've been through months of physical therapy, specialist visits, various ointments and creams, steroid/iontophoresis treatments, and still it persists. So what, right? Big deal, so I can't run. But it IS a big deal. A very big deal. Running was the last thing I had that I was doing for myself. Not only that, I had realized that running had become a very important part of me and an essential ingredient to getting through the day.  I don't know how it happened, because when I was younger I hated running with an unhealthy passion.  But here we are. I love running. I love the sound of my feet hitting the ground: the hushed zip of the tread of my sneakers on pavement; the soft crunch of the gravel under my feet; the swishing whisper as my feet forge their path through the tall grass; the satisfying splash of the puddle; the sweatier, the dirtier, the better, because that means I have earned this run, this solitude. I also love feeling my lungs burn, breathing hard, working hard, feeling my blood pumping, because it means I'm still alive. After everything, I'm still alive and, more importantly, I'm still full of life, I still have something to offer. When I run I want to work hard, to punish myself for my faults and create something positive of them, and so I can reward myself when I am done. I admit it has become a manic obsession. When I run, I can throw off the different capes and layers of person that I am trying--and failing spectacularly--to be, the personas that I am lying to myself about. When I run I am me, plainly and just simply me. I am at once a purely physical being but also more intimately connected to my subconscious. I let my mind go where it wants to go, and when it goes to dark places, the physical action of feet on earth pound out bad, the scary, lending perspective, or if not that, at least detachment. The faces of the hurtful people in my life pave my path, making every footfall, every crunch of rock or twig a therapeutic event. And that is just the beginning.

Running in the gym doesn't cut it. I love being outside, in nature, rain or shine. When I'm outside, I feel like chains around my chest have been released, I can breathe again, I can clear my head, I can recharge.

One friend suggested that my current ankle injury is my body telling my mind and soul to stop running away, from my worries, from my fears, from my obligations. And it's true I want to run away, I want to run and not stop until I reach the horizon, not the one place I glimpse at the beginning, but the ever-changing one, the end of the earth. I want to run and find where the road becomes track, where the track becomes dirt, where the dirt becomes grass, just run, run, run. And I am running away, but I'm running away so that I can come back again. So that I can spend the negative inside my heart and mind and come back a clean slate to take on the challenges of every day.

And now that has been taken away from me, with no way of knowing when, if ever, I will be healthy enough to resume. I have gone through many different emotions: anger, resentment, depression, despair, all the while my mind bouncing around in my skull, wanting to scream....I know in the grand scheme of life, this setback seems trivial. I have a healthy, happy family, a secure life, a loving husband, but for the first time I am realizing that running isn't just a form of exercise for me. It's a way of life, something that I need to keep me level, grounded, and alive--not in the literal sense, but alive in the sense that I feel energy and life coursing through my veins.

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