Like a new car owner, when I started running I noticed more runners. I critiqued their water bottles, posture and stride. I made more room for them on sidewalks and despite the having never met, I felt like a member of their club, nodding as I passed by. Lately however when I’m outside I notice a different set of people, all of them on crutches.
I signed up for the Paris Marathon. It’s my first and I’m totally excited by it. I’m willing to put in the time, sweat and tears. I have six months. I’ve got a training plan and some good beats flowing out of my headset. The day after I made it official, paying the not so insignificant fee, I hopped in my runners to celebrate and I tore my calf muscle at the bottom of a hill.
Stuck two kilometers from home, in a remote field with no phone, no money and a spouse away on business, it didn’t take much to decide that if a van with tinted windows and missing license plate, if a driver in a pin-stripped jumper and the plague crawling on his face, pulled over and offered me his lap I would take it. Unfortunately only one lonely woman with what appeared to be a new hip showed concern as I dragged (actually it looked more like rowed) my limb home. Particularly humiliating was the fact that I was wearing my prized half-marathon t-shirt, the one that tells everyone how great a runner I am. When I got home I had just enough time, something like four hours, to wipe off sweat, eat dinner, change into pants and get to a German class. My absence would have cost $600. Should I mention my computer died? It was a really rough day.
Sure I was pissed but I wasn’t broken. I can do hard things, I told myself. I rested, iced, compressed and elevated my injury. I made peace with the fact that it would take several weeks to heal. I stalked the Internet for help and worried over deep vein thrombosis. I borrowed crutches but bruised my armpits and hands incorrectly using them. Then I caught a cold. By day 4 I felt like I’d been hit by a truck but I kept telling myself, I can do hard things. I turned down seven invitations and cancelled two appointments to facilitate healing. I endured some lonely days and ate all the expired food in the cupboard. I will never buy beans again. I can do hard things. The only thing I couldn't miss was that damn German class.
Finally I was walking but not without difficultly. To loosen my leg I foam rolled and did dynamic stretches hobbling around the neighborhood. I was elated to be outside, enjoying the red and yellows leaves, but I endured a lot of looks that suggested I was somehow reckless and needed a lesson. By the third week of disability I made an appointment with a physiotherapist. He told me my Type II strain had healed into a rigid ball of scar tissue preventing me from walking. I expected the cure to be a nice massage. Instead, he rolled out a machine they use on sidewalks and started jackhammering my leg. I can do hard things.
He bandaged my leg and I suspect incorrectly. Sharp pain tore through the ligament in my knee every time I placed my foot down.
‘This is not comfortable,’ I told him.
‘C’est normal,’ he said. He didn’t speak English. I spoke remedial French. Effective communication hung around 20%.
With strict instructions to walk often, I was in complete distress by the time I got home. DEFCON 1. Total melt down. I would never run again. I would become a cynical drug addict, diagnosing rare diseases and walking with a cane. Worse, I decided I must have done something bad to deserve this. I could have spent the rest of the evening in the fetal position if it weren’t for the Germans.
When I told the physiotherapist I had no choice but to remove the tape, he shrugged and wheeled out the jackhammer. This time though he coupled the pain with a massage. As soon as I got off the table I could walk. So quickly was my impairment removed it felt like a miracle. I spent the following week testing this miracle on every sidewalk in the city. When I saw him again, he started me on rather easy exercises. I got zealous, jumped a little too quickly and injured the damn muscle all over again. Back to limping.
Now I’m upset but it’s tempered with optimism. Clearly I’m not ready to get back into running but I came close. I can see it. It's funny how hope makes all the difference. This chick can still do hard things.