I think there’s little as frustrating to somebody who’s been productive as the inability to produce at the level you know you’re capable of.
Okay, that’s vague as anything. Specifically, I’m talking about running. If you follow, you may know that this has been a year plagued with injury for me. First one foot, then the other; the soles, then the ankles, then the heels, until I start to wonder if I’m not so much doing damage to myself as my body has simply passed its sell-by date and is withering and falling apart like a bunch of rotted grapes.
But I’ve been to the doctor, and the doctor said to give running a try again, so run I did. And I’ve gone on two runs now, my first in a month (which honestly felt like an entire season, given all the crazies I was stirring during that month). And they’ve been okay. There’s tightness and there’s uncertainty, but no pain. Such an astounding lack of pain, in fact, that I’m having all the delusions of grandeur that accompany a return to form: “maybe it’s not so bad. I can do another mile!” or “this isn’t so bad. I can go faster!” And while I almost certainly could do those things, that would almost certainly be the most direct route back to injury.
So I am tempering the glee that comes with being able to run without crippling pain by forcing myself to take it slow, listen to my feet, and make sure that I don’t rush myself right back into the podiatrist’s office again. But taking it slow is an agony. My body chemistry has changed over the last three years, to the point where the run satisfies something like hunger in my brain, and like an alcoholic feeling the pull of a perfectly mixed gin and tonic, I’ve got the scent of these last couple of runs in my bones. The chill bite of the fall air in my lungs, the regular tap of my feet on the pavement, the ebbing drone in my mind as my focus slips away and I embrace the calm.
My wife and I are signed up for a race in a week and a half, and I may actually be able to run at least a portion of it with her. We’ve signed up for another in January. I won’t be running my farthest distances or my fastest paces by any stretch, but I’m pretty confident that simply being out there will be enough. For now, it’s time to suck it up and accept that it’s not the time to run fast or far, and appreciate the fact that I can run at all.