So many others have overcome so much more. Serious diseases and debilitating medical conditions. Addictions of all types. Chronic injuries, and surgeries. Brain tumors. Prison time. Obesity. Poverty. Mental health crises. Litanies of personal loss. Bike crashes. Car crashes. Literally being run over by a truck.
And that’s just the people I know, my people who keep the lights on, people who have made or are making their way back to running, inspiring everyone else in their paths. So while it seems trivial to share my recent struggle, it’s the only struggle I’ve got, and in attaching myself to these others and in saying everything out loud comes revival or maybe even resurrection, I hope. Running resurrection.
In last year’s year-end post, The Year of Unrunning, I asked and answered “what do we want out of this,” and committed to some things: slowing down, continuing to find new places to run, rededicating to new goals or choosing to choose none at all, and especially to relearning the things I thought I already knew.
Fate and fortune had other ideas, little did I know how many. The trials and trails of 2020 crossfaded to the starts and stops and starts and stops and starts and stops of 2021, yielding the lowest mileage I’ve run since I began more than 20 years ago. Even as the year ends, and I try to pick myself up yet one more time, I’m back to a walk-run regimen with paces that make me want to shield my Strava activities from public view (I don’t, but still).
At the beginning of the pandemic I predicted it would be a marathon, 26.2 months, and it looks like I was right. If we count from February 2020, that puts us into April 2022 before we see some exit light. (I also predicted 1 million US dead, and sadly, it looks like I was right about that too.) What I didn’t predict is what a toll two years of isolated inactivity would take on my body, especially in this last eight months.
Of all the running injuries I’ve had, and I’ve had them all from IT bands to shin splints to plantar fasciitis to whatever (except for knees), back injuries are the absolute worst. Most painful by far, puts you down the longest. I’ve gone into some detail about the how and the what in other posts and won’t repeat myself here, but man is this different. And now I’m forcing myself to live my physical life differently. Standing up and sitting down differently. Rolling in neutral position when I lay on the couch or get in bed. Thinking before bending or lifting or pushing or pulling. Getting nervous about making the bed or doing the laundry or pulling on my socks or tying my shoes. Actually listening to (and obeying!) my physical therapist, and reading Jay Dicharry’s Running Rewired like he’s the second coming of Danny Dreyer and Chi Running. Promising to pay more attention to hip flexor strength and flexibility than to distance or pace—it’s all in the hips. Moving back from less shoe to more shoe. And yet, there’s always a motion that generates a twinge that makes me acutely aware of where I am right now.
Because 2021 was also a year of wonder and miracles. Dropping to one knee not knowing if I’d be able to straighten up again (she said yes!), then, a few short months later, marrying this incredible woman who will be running by my side for the rest of my life. Being blessed by the birth of my first grandchild. Seeing my son and his own beautiful bride celebrate their marriage after three postponements. And although Omicron pushed the holidays to January this season, there’s peace in knowing that everyone has made it through so far, that we’ve been and will continue to be brave in the teeth of crisis, and that the hugs will be so much more powerful and sweet when we’re all able to get together in one place again.
With all that do we really want to talk about what’s next for running?
Yeah of course we do but let’s make it quick. Future training plans? Strength and mind before mileage. Future race plans? Four on the calendar instead of the usual 20, for now at least. Refocusing on 5ks to half marathons only, and nothing longer than 10k in the summer months. I see some friends returning to the sport, and some new runners, which prompts me to remind myself of some unsolicited advice:
Run every run like it’s your last. Every single one of them. Because you just never know, it just might be. All of us have an expiration date, a best-if-used-by date, and we damn well better use it all because eventually that tank does empty out and sometimes it explodes without warning.
In parallel, as I approach retirement (this is what 65 looks like), and no longer feel like I need to control things, and no longer want to let things control me, there’s some stuff I want to do for the first time in a long time, or for the first time ever. I’ll save all that for another post in another place, but I will say this, for running and for everything else:
I don’t have a bucket list. I only have today.
If you run long enough there comes a moment—maybe it’s when you’re running through the forest with the bunnies and the butterflies, maybe it’s when you cross the finish line of your first 5k, maybe it’s slogging through your neighborhood in the cold rain, maybe it’s at mile 23 of a marathon—a moment comes when you pause and lift off whatever you’ve been carrying on your shoulders all this time and lay it gently on the side of the road, when you make your final peace with everything you’ve been running away from, and make a new peace with all the things you’re running towards.
For a long time I thought maybe we’d only be lucky enough to get one of those moments. Now I know they are endless, and are something we create, and are all on a path of possibility I’m beginning to call Running Resurrection. One of those resurrections is possible every day if, like their cousins miracles, we only look for them. Sometimes the path is lit, sometimes it’s not, but we can always bring our own light.
So as I start over again, as I embrace the period of my life when simply waking up means it’s a good day, I’ll end this post in hope with my usual mantra:
There may be younger runners. And there may be faster runners. But every once in a while, into the setting sun on a warm summer’s night, there is no more magnificent runner, than me.
Thank you for sharing the road in peace and love. Have a great 2022—I hope to be out there with you all! Running, in resurrection.