“If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
It's been some time since I've been able to truly enjoy the Love of the Run. Some have asked where I've been and what have I been doing? Are you still running?
The truth is 2016 left me in unchartered territory. Not fully myself as everyday became a struggle. These struggles consumed the one thing that gave me purpose and direction. It's hard not to lose sight of life's big picture when it seems you are bound by uncertainty. It causes you to pull away. In these moments others see you as distant, unfriendly and not present.
Pardon my language but for those in this situation will totally understand. For those that don't, let me give you some insight. Injuries/setbacks or whatever is keeping you from moving forward, fucking suck!
There is no good way to fully describe the emotions that injuries and setbacks can bring. If we push through the pain, dig deep, and give it all we have at times, the scars from that resurface when we least expect it. I know I'm not alone in this. We all have been there, done that. Many athletes, including runners either have or will go through this at some point. From a minor injury to a major injury or just life in general. Finding out that you may not be able to run is like having your heart ripped out. Yet in the big picture it ends up as a blessing in disguise. You wake up and realize that you are not invincible. That you are not super human. It is in these moments you realize something needs to change.
My injuries are not because I am logging crazy miles right now or pushing through pain. Last year work had consumed me. Continuous 80 hour weeks for almost a year took it's toll. I went from running 40 to 70 + miles a week down to running under 10. It wasn't until the later months in the year, struggling to stay in shape when I noticed some unusual pains on a normal 2 to 5 mile run. Although very active at work, the long hours worked against me. I was unable to maintain my conditioning. I was not taking care of my body mentally or physically. My mind and muscles grew weak and imbalanced. Subtle injuries surfaced that occurred when I was pushing my body physically to its limits over the years. A MRI showed a bulged lower disc in my back, a small left hamstring tear that had scarred over and torn cartilage in my left hip. I did not know what was wrong until I stopped taking care of myself. I struggled with the news for a brief second. Not once did I feel sorry for myself. It was difficult to comprehend that all the years leading up to this that were so meaningful, coincidentally became my wake up call. I am lucky. My injuries are not tragic- they will not keep me from moving forward. With physical therapy it can all be corrected to some degree. Instead I am even more aware and smarter about my passion.
Adding insult to injury- literally, last year a routine doctor visit early in 2016 landed me a visit to the ER. After getting a shot, passed out and caught the fall with my head to the floor. Although I sustained no long term brain damage, I've learned head trauma will leave lasting effects (good and bad) long after it happens. Soon after it happened, I lost motivation, became irritable and moody, I craved sugar constantly and became very emotional. I've always worn my heart on my sleeve, priding myself on being kind, but my emotions were out of control. I didn't understand my state of mind. I cried at the last Avengers movie during an action scene when Scarlett Johansson was kicking ass and taking names. A year later and I am feeling more like myself again.
Well, I guess it depends on who you ask.
It's been a long road back. I still face challenges as I am recognizing that things have changed. The long distances I so desperately crave may now only be a once a year endeavor. But, I can still run. I may never accomplish that 200 or 300 mile race that I dreamed about as I was running my first 100- but I know as long as I keep doing the right things I will be running for a long time. Bringing back cross training and conditioning is making all the difference. I am not super fast, I'm not an elite athlete by any means. By running less to run more I am still able to run a 5:40 mile and enjoy the long run. I continue to move forward and run each run like it is my last. My schedule Is normalizing and I finally have time to focus. Every day I am getting stronger. I stay driven, determined and positive.
My running direction used to be clear- distances I wanted to accomplish and bucket list races to check off- but last year was a wake up call. I am proof that in the blink of an eye things can change. When these changes or setbacks happen we have a choice to stand still or climb that mountain.
I choose to climb that mountain.