there’s more to life than running, but….

ChainLinks

I was out to dinner with Reader #1 last weekend and she voiced some concerns after my last post, as in:  aren’t you taking this a little too seriously, is running again all that really matters, aren’t there other things in life that make you happy?  Of course, there are other things that make me happy, I said.  I’ve got lots of things in my life that make me happy, such as:  my family, friends, career, and you, Reader #1, especially you.  I’ve got a whole life outside of running.

It’s true I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it again, and I’m writing about that.  But it’s also true that when I write about it, like on a good run, I like to let it fill my whole mind.  Sure, lot of runs are spent thinking about things unrelated to running.  And a run is a great opportunity to think, remember, solve problems, et cetera.  But when I think about it now, I think about those other days–when I’m going fast and staying focused on form and breathing, time and distance; or (though this happens rarely) when I get past myself and reach that “runner’s high,” that magical mix of energy, contentment, and locomotion; or I think about the hard days—when I’m pushing myself down the lakefront trail on a hot summer day–too tired, too sweaty, too thirsty—waiting for it to be done, when there’s nothing easy or magical about it.  These are the ways I like to think about it because these are the runs I hope I can do again.

Still, that doesn’t mean I take it too seriously, does it?  That I’ve got too much invested?  I told myself no, sipped on my margarita, talked across the table with Reader #1, and felt my life was in perfect balance.  But the very next day I had to re-evaluate my answer because my knee (which had been feeling pretty good) was stiff and achy.  I had aggravated it by driving a stick shift home from dinner that night (clutch knee—it’s a real thing!) and it wasn’t the pain that was bothering me so much, it was me thinking to myself, if I can’t even drive across town, how am I ever going to be able to run again?  So much of mood is based on expectations, desire, and that was certainly the case on this day.  If I had just been able to stay focused on what I was doing and not worry about my knee feeling better, I would’ve been so much better off.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and was feeling kind of hopeless again.

This led me to really question myself:  would I be better off if I didn’t care as much as I do?  I can say “No” because I love to run, race, train, plan for it, look back on it, et cetera, and some of the best moments of my life have come through running and to a large extent those moments have come because I’ve taken it seriously.  But I can also say “Yes” because life is short and it probably does me no good to spend time thinking about it, and by that I mean thinking too much, as I’m prone to do, about my training, fitness, diet, schedule, and so on.

What would probably be best would be to think about running only when I’m in the act and think about everything else I do in the same way, be fully immersed, be always like a monk in a meditative state.  If I could do that, I’d love to do everything as much as I love to run, right?  Well, maybe not.  Maybe running is the only way for me to get to that state and maybe I only get there because I pay as much attention to it as I do.

Ah, running…what are my chances of doing that again?  Well, maybe I should give a brief update on my progress, because that’s what this is supposed to be about, right?  It’s been eleven weeks since the surgery and I’ve been off crutches for just over a month.  Between swimming (starting to do flip turns now), biking (still can’t stand up on my pedals), weights (mostly core work, but some leg extensions), and Physical Therapy, I’ve been averaging about 60-75 minutes of exercise a day.  Last week I even got on an Elliptical for 10 minutes with no knee pain.  I saw my surgeon last Tuesday and he said in a month or so I might be able to try to run.  He said the pain I feel in my knee is probably just bones still swollen from the surgery, not a sign the microfracture didn’t work, but still, as always, time will tell.  So I’m optimistic, but am going to be patient.  I haven’t run for over 5 months, so there’s no use rushing anything at this point.

It’s funny how I started off writing to make the point that I don’t take running too seriously and kind of ended up saying the opposite.  Of course, both are true, I do and I don’t, but the more I try to explain it, the more I end up writing in circles, further from finding my way out.  But that’s kind of like running–because most days a runner starts and finishes in the exact same place.  Loop upon loop upon loop….but it’s never a matter of getting nowhere.  Something happens along the way, and when it’s done, there’s one more link in the chain, the chain that keeps on growing, that chain that goes to who knows where….

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