What's a Runner Without the Running?

There is something wrong in the brains of many runners. I will acknowledge and admit this, even as I scoff at its validity. Once you make running habitual (or insert whatever other exercising obsession you may hold dear) it becomes all consuming when you find yourself unable to exercise; unable to draw out that sweat, to push yourself beyond what you did yesterday, to set goals and meet them and move forward again and again......

The runners I know, myself included, get jittery when they can't run. They get agitated in their restlessness. They begin to wonder if they will ever move again, much less race. They go from dreaming big dreams, setting lofty goals and craving unforgiving training runs to wallowing in self pity and drawing from the little reservoir of fitness they have left just to make it through each day. And because we are an OCD breed when it comes to fitness, sidelined runners are often found doing some bizarre things to keep in shape while they can't get their jog on. (My kids can tell you all about some ridiculous exercise videos that both mesmerize and repel them simultaneously but hey, if it weren't for having had five kids, I could show you some rock solid abs right now....sigh....)

While in FL, I committed myself to taking it slow. Even though the MRI revealed only slight soft tissue strain and minor contusions under my left patella, the insignificance of the injury has not panned out to be very insignificant at all. As it turns out, even as minor as it appears to be on the screen, it has disabled me from the very act I feel like I need to do to stay mostly sane, or at least in good shape. Now, over three months post marathon, I am still sitting, enviously watching the runners go by while wondering if I will ever fully recover enough to run at all, much less run Boston in April. While my brain had launched into grandiose ideas of doing an Ironman Triathlon one day, or at least pushing my marathon time down by another half minute per mile, my body has other ideas, receding into a heap of stillness I haven't known since that bout of pneumonia last year. (Editor's Note: Given the intensity and frequency with which the Graceful Chicken exercises, we cannot confirm the validity of the last statement and wish she'd perhaps drop the drama....)

Already, I have had to back out of the August Duathlon I was registered for with a friend. If I can't run a mile without having to stop, stretch, rubdown and stretch again, I obviously could not run two 5ks, an hour apart. When she asked if I would just be willing to walk them, I gave her such an uncomprehending look, she quickly realized that purposefully walking during a race was not exactly in my deck of cards. Perhaps one day it will be. But I am not willing to claim that day just yet!

But as I glance ahead and realize that the next half-marathon (that I won't be running) is only a month or so out, and training for Boston starts in only another couple of months, I get jumpy and anxious. Do I register for Boston tomorrow or just assume I will have to re-qualify some other time? Have I missed my one and only chance? Is it even really that big of a deal to actually run Boston? Why is this suddenly important to me when only a year ago I had no intention of running any marathons, much less that one?

And on top of that, I have become increasingly more irritable about fitness. As I said before, we runners are kind of OCD about our workouts. While in FL, I bought a jump rope, which I quickly realized I couldn't use, so instead I dusted off and tediously used some old fitness bands (that my mom found in her garage) for strengthening exercises. I did Ashtanga yoga a couple times a week, massaged down that leg, iced it and basically bided my time in hopes that I would be able to run after the full two weeks of "rest" I put in. No such luck.

I am still "resting" and icing and going to physical torture therapy, which is so intense on some days that I am left with bruises up and down my legs. You see, Rusty, the PT, takes great pleasure in using a 4-inch sink plunger on my IT band, followed by a small wooden dowel at the top near the hip and finishing with a long, weighted pain-stick that he terrorizes my quads and IT band with where the bruises of that day are already coming to surface.....Who needs a foam roller for myofacial release when you can pay to be tortured?! Seriously though, I sometimes have to bite my arm to offset the pain (it's a good thing I have delivered five babies to prepare for this but still, I feel like maybe a safe-word is in order here). Even so,  I find myself laughing at it all. Who would've thought, after getting through all that training and racing without a problem, I'd be biting myself in agony from PT that I go to because of an "insignificant" injury. At the very least, I am now fairly certain that I could never participate in Sado-Masichism, in case you were wondering.

So, there you are. This is the week I register for Boston (or not) and yet, I face a ridiculously-unimportant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-kind-of-dilemma: To pay or not to pay.....that is the question. If you have an answer, I'm all ears...well, ears and bruises. :)

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