I ran one mile this past weekend. It was supposed to be 20.
My goal of crossing the Chicago Marathon finish line on October 11 is no more… and it has been a heartbreaking process to move through. For the past 23 days I have been nursing a torn ligament in the arch of my foot. I hesitated to share the news because I thought (in classic runner-style) it was just temporary. Denial set in, followed by frustration, anger and tears as I learned it was more serious.
In talking about my injury with several of you, I’ve realized how many of us are always running through some type of pain or injury. We are hurt, coming back, grinding it out and for some of us, completely sidelined. I realized quickly… I.am.not.alone.
We are a tough crew. Runners are resilient and we push through. We have a mindset of ‘yes I can’ so when our body roars ‘no you can’t’ we get reeeaaaaally pissed off, and it’s hard to accept and listen. The heartbreak is exquisitely painful when there is readiness within us. When the desire to attempt a goal is held back not by your commitment and mental toughness, but by a physical pain you simply can’t overcome.
I know my running legs have a finite number of miles left in them – I’m coming to terms with this more and more as I get older. After two back surgeries as a teenager and career-ending knee problems while playing college basketball, I have learned to love and rest my body whenever I feel even the slightest injury. This requires self-regulation and patience and these are NOT high on my strengths list.
So yes… I have spent the last 22 days NOT running. Not one mile, and it has felt like forever. (Honestly, I feel like ‘resting’ for an active person is a very special form of torture.)
But, I am not a ‘gut it out’ type of gal anymore. I am a ‘be grateful you can’ type of runner these days. Even while some have told me I could probably make it across the Chicago Marathon finish line, that is not the kind of race I want to put my body through.
My goal in running this marathon was to run it the right way, something I had not done my first time around in 2012. I wanted to be rested and ready with a full tank of strength and endurance to see me through to the finish. It didn’t feel right to miss the most important part of my training and then ask my body to push through and grind it out anyway. My body deserves better of me. My body needs me to be smart, mindful and responsible so that we can squeeze out every last mile we have together, and so that when the ‘someday’ comes when we have to hang it up, we do it with grace and peace within us.
I have also learned through this process what I will never again say to an injured runner.
‘Everything happens for a reason’ was something that rolled off my tongue more times than I count. My injury happened because I was competing in a heated potato sack contest and carelessly jumped into an uneven hole. (Yes, seriously – this is how I injured my foot.) And you know what I realized? Any time I’ve ever said these words to someone it’s been because I’ve felt uncomfortable just being present with their grief and sadness. I’ve wanted to take the focus off the hurt and point it toward the possibility of what’s around the bend. When sometimes, all the person needs is validation. “I’m sorry. This must be so hard.”
If I’m being completely honest, I’m still a little heartbroken. I wanted the Chicago Marathon badly – very badly. It was a score I was ready to settle. The silver lining is my husband Jason will be running in my honor, and he’s promised me he’ll enjoy every single step of those 26.2 miles for me.
Because I get to… and I now realize how incredibly sacred that is.