Exactly a year ago I ran one of my slowest 10ks and, having failed to notice no one around my age ahead of me, hurried off without my first-place age group award. In the months to come, I signed up well in advance for fast-selling races, only to be hobbled by injury. To save a spot and $5 on the registration fee, I’d blow five to ten times that amount to be a no-show at the start.
By summer, I was still entertaining training schedules for a fall half marathon and a few 5ks, only to be sidelined again and again by injury – the same injury, acute achilles tendonitis. A familiar pattern continued to play out: I’d rest for weeks, start running on my own for short spurts, finally feel fine and rejoin a running group. Within weeks I’d re-injure my ankle. Looking back, I logged more (gas) miles volunteering to help my track club peers than I did running errands for the year.
The final assault came during a Halloween morning trail run I was hosting. Instead of turning around at the first sign of pain, I ran through it, believing that as the run’s unofficial “leader” I needed to show strength and provide direction to others. That’s not smart role modeling. When the swelling didn’t subside for a couple of weeks, I once again tucked my pride inside a now-full reserve and returned to my health care provider, who’d told me time and again to consider cycling my main form of recreation. Once I started running regularly, though, cycling had to compete for my limited time, and the convenience of running almost always won.
Plus, I had a running blog to maintain, a training group to support, and a personal identity suddenly at risk.
Just as it’s taken me a long time to notice the gradual degradation in my performances, I’ve been slow to realize what 30 years of running had done to my body because I was still chasing numbers, seeking camaraderie,
My ankle remains swollen, and that’s because of scar tissue from continual tearing during the past two years. I’m lucky I didn’t sever the tendon, and next week I’ll head to a new orthopedic surgeon (the old ones don’t have time for my foolishness anymore, and I can’t blame them). I’ll either be assigned surgery or physical therapy and, of course, be told to change my habits permanently.
This time I will not defy doctors, nor continue to delude myself, no matter how much it hurts.