I needed to run tonight. Really, you could barely call what I did “a run”, but I needed to do it nonetheless. It may have even been detrimental to my body and my immediate future of running, but I’d have sooner cut my feet off then have gone another day without running. Maybe I did 4 miles in about 48 minutes, and I didn’t even break a sweat or run the whole way, but it felt so necessary.
Last weekend I went to Port Aransas with nine college friends for a second annual “retreat”. I’ll spare the details to protect the innocent and the guilty, but basically we rented a beach house and reverted to our Mesozoic college selves, mixed with a fair amount of thirtysomething philosophizing, father talk and whatever else it is that ten thirty-five year old guys do. Friday night was not pretty, and Saturday morning most of us were in a state between dry heaving and nauseous paralyzation. Somehow, I managed to wring out an 8 mile run along the beach. It was hell, but I’ve always subscribed to the theory that I feel better if I “sweat it out”. That theory was sorely put to the test here. I felt horrible, worse than before the run. I sat on the deck of the house, trying to push down a fig newton, trying not to vomit, and feeling my hamstrings twitch uncontrollably. Finally, a dip in the pool brought me back from the brink and I was able to laugh at my friends who were still near death. Later that day, we all felt well enough to play our annual game of touch football. Of course I was the star. Really, I was unconverable. I “higher-opened” all over their ass, catching several touchdowns including the winning and game-ending one for the second year in a row.
Next on our feats of manliness was to race a 40-yard dash. Juvenile, yes, but we are men, so would you expect any different? Anyway, the gauntlet was thrown down the previous year when one of the underdogs came out of nowhere to win (amid much controversy and claims of false starts). Ever since, much trash had been talked over email in between advice on toddler sleeping habits and composting techniques. As we lined up for the race on the beach, I kept saying “I really shouldn’t do this, I’m going to pull a hamstring.” Of course no one listened and they all just called me elementary school names. Only eight of us toed the starting line, and of those, only 4 of us had an actual shot at winning. I figured my main competition was right next to me. The gun went off and 20 yards in I was trailing. By 30 yards I was pulling ahead. At 35 yards, I felt the inevitable pop in my right hamstring. At the finish I didn’t care who won, I just knew I was in trouble. I limped back to the house and waited for the weekend to end so I could go home.
All of this is a longwinded way to say I pulled my hamstring last weekend and I haven’t been able to run all week. I was (and am) mad at myself because I knew I shouldn’t have run that sprint. I’ve known for sometime that my hamstrings are tender ground beef. So for the first 48 hours after I pulled up lame I was seriously depressed. Sure the hamstring hurt, but worse, I knew I wouldn’t be able to run for …. for how long? I don’t know, I pulled my hamstring in college during baseball season and I was out for what seemed like a month, maybe 6 weeks. Oh lord, if I was out of commission for that long now, I might as well give up running for good. I sulked. I limped. I kept quiet. I tried to ice and elevate and all that, but it was half-hearted, because my heart was broken (awwwwww).
In retrospect, maybe it’s a net positive that I’ve had running taken away for a time. I was probably getting a little burned out, tired of the monotony of the early morning workouts, tired of feeling guilty if i missed a day or had a bad run, tired of the tyranny of trying to run faster. My legs and my body and my mind needed some rest.
This break from running has also, trite as it is to say it, made me realize how much I enjoy running. Having something you love taken away is the best way to regain an appreciation for that something. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit how much running has invaded my identity, and not being able to lean on it and live with it has left me bare and sad and … and …. and it’s not nearly as dramatic as all this. I just miss running.
But I noticed as the week went on that the injury wasn’t nearly as bad as I first thought. There was a definite pop at the time, but maybe my quick action of ice and anti-inflamation helped. Maybe already being in good shape has helped me heal. Whatever the case, as the week progressed the limp faded and the pain ceased and I was still afraid to run. No need to rush it. Yesterday I went for a walk with Jessica and it felt ok, though a little tender after a mile or so. This morning I was disheartened by how fatigued my legs were.
Finally then, to tonight. I just felt like I really needed to run. I didn’t care if it hurt, or was unwise, or would ultimately slow the recovery, I needed to run right now. So I went. I started at a walk for 15 minutes or so, then gingerly broke into a jog. I was careful not to push off and not to run up hills. I concentrated on just moving my knees up and down, not forward. I would stop and walk if I felt the slightest twinge. It was the best 12/minute mile run I’ve ever had, and now, everything seems ok. I’m still worried that it will take weeks to return to the Gazelles, and maybe months to return to where I was before I was hurt. I’m afraid that when I get back to the group, maybe I’ll have lost something, a desire maybe, or a belief. I don’t know, it’s hard to put in to words, but maybe I needed to run tonight so that I could try to convince myself that I won’t lose “it”.
Whatever, I feel stupid for obsessing like this. It’s not serious, it’s only been a week, I’m just a middling middle-of-the-packer. But it means something to me, running and not running. And so I needed to run tonight.