Running from the Hard Stuff

I don’t do running posts here so much anymore. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing (probably an indifferent thing ultimately), but every time I find myself writing about running I find myself wondering how much can really be said.

It’s a run. You put one foot in front of the other until you’ve had enough or until you can’t any longer, and um… that’s pretty much it.

That said, even given the understanding (and it is my constant position) that every run is a good run, yesterday’s was a bit better than average. It’s been a long time since I had a run without any pain — ball-of-the-foot pain, ankle pain, bottom-of-the-heel pain, back-of-the-heel pain — and as a result I’ve approached every run for the past three weeks (following a month off) with a fair amount of trepidation. Fear that my feet are still jacked up and will therefore screw up the run, fear that I’ll do further damage to my feet and screw up any future runs, fear that while taking it easy to avoid exacerbating my existing injuries I’ll stumble into some other entirely new injury.

But, see, there I go, taking a thing that’s incredibly specific and realizing that it’s a lot bigger than I thought. Running in fear of injury has me going slower than ever and heading out on shorter distances than I’ve run since I got started two and a half years ago. And yes, I’ve been successful in avoiding injury that way, but I also feel as if I’m not accomplishing much, either. Rather like a tightrope walker doing practice runs on a line just a foot off the ground. Sure, they’re good for fundamentals and building confidence, but sooner or later you have to go and climb the building again, man.

With that in mind, and after a quick little jaunt on Saturday with no ill effects, I set out for a five mile stint yesterday and allowed myself to go as fast as I liked, rather than reigning myself in like I’ve done for the last three weeks. I wasn’t setting speed records or anything, but I got my pace under ten minutes per mile, which is about a full minute per mile ahead of my pace on any other run I’ve had of late, and about the fastest I’ve gone since all my injuries started. Five miles later, the feet are tight and sore, but not showing any pangs of injury, and here a day later, they’re still showing all clear. That’s room for hope that my injuries may finally be on the ropes.

But where was I? Right. Jumping to conclusions and making metaphors out of molehills. Because I wonder if, not unlike the way I’ve been babying my injury of late, I’ve not been babying my edit of late as well. Shying away from the hard work. Giving myself overlarge pats on the back for accomplishments that really aren’t so grand. Simply pacing back and forth on a line one foot off the ground. I tell myself that I’ve got lots of time ahead, what with the holidays coming up, to make progress on the edit, and I’ve been using that as an excuse to let the hard work at hand slide. I tell myself that I cleared a ridiculously high hurdle and earned a bit of a step back from banging my head against the wall, and now I feel my momentum slipping away. Taking the easy way out.

Back when I started the first draft of the novel, I set what I thought was an ambitious goal for finishing the thing, and I shattered it into thousands of sparkling shards, finishing almost a month ahead of schedule. Then I set a deadline for my first edit, not knowing what the process would be or whether the goal was reasonable at all, and it looks like I’m not even almost going to make that goal. Now, to be fair, the beast has shifted and changed form and whereas I thought I was facing down a steaming, stomping minotaur, I’m actually battling a winged harpy that screeches and attacks from all angles, so I’m not mad at myself for taking more time than I thought I might. Still, if I’m honest, it’s sliding on me. The Grinch’s sleigh sliding inevitably down the mountainside as he clings hopelessly to the rails.

Well, the run can often be instructive, and this weekend’s run is telling me that it’s time to stop handicapping myself, stop shying away from the thing that’s difficult and do it because it’s difficult. My feet are healed (or at least healing) and ready to carry me back to longer distances and faster paces. As for the edit, I think I’ve enjoyed my tiny victory enough; it’s time to face the harpy and buckle back down to work.