It’s official. I’m down, stuck in a rut, trapped in a funk…. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve got a serious case of the Januaries. The weather has gone from sunny and mild to grey and dismal, and my spirit has plummeted with it. On top of that, I’m fighting a terrible cold, a nagging pain on the top of my right foot (please, please, please don’t be a stress fracture), and a stiff Achilles tendon that has been bugging me since Christmas. I’ve missed two days of running this week and feel completely off center. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even feel like writing. Complain much?
I returned from the Minnesota tundra a few days ago and celebrated being back home in Des Moines with a glorious 12.6 mile run on Monday, only to wake up Tuesday morning with a sore throat, nasal congestion, and a throbbing headache. I’ve been trying to take it easy since then, with the goal of recovering as quickly as possible. However, I am realizing that while my cold is contributing to my change in mood, it is also symptomatic of the plain and simple fact that my lifelong case of the blues has manifested itself in the form of physical illness and has managed to get the best of me in the last two weeks.
I was born melancholy- a regular Eeyore, always a little more down than up, my glass always a little more half-empty than half-full. I’ve concealed this side of myself with relative success when I’ve needed to, and I deal with it in various ways: by staying busy with a multitude of interests (Jill of all trades, master of none); by underscoring the heavily Kanga side of myself (come to my home and I will cook you a five-course meal… and I’ll even do the dishes so you don’t have to!); and by running (and running… and running… and running). Call it overcompensating, call it running away (literally), call it what you will…. I happen to call it self-preservation and find comfort in my mechanisms for managing my inner Eeyore, knowing they will work for me and help me feel normal when normal is the furthest thing from how I truly feel.
When I was recovering from a tibial tubercle osteotomy (also known as severing my kneecap, realigning it, and reattaching it to my tibia with two titanium screws) four Januaries ago, I couldn’t run at all for many months. Nor could I fulfill my role as Kanga because I couldn’t stand long enough to cook even a one-course meal, let alone do the dishes. My runs in Rock Creek Park had been replaced with thrice-weekly physical therapy appointments that were so intense they brought me to tears. And so, as I sank more deeply into my Eeyore persona, I began to read.
I read about other women who ran… women who had survived a variety of adverse circumstances, including breast cancer, anorexia, and acute depression. These women, like me, used running as their panacea. I found solace in their stories, knowing I wasn’t alone. The only problem was that my outlet for dealing with my “stuff” was not available to me at that time. I needed at least 115 degrees’ range of motion in my knee and to be able to extend my leg out in front of me without pain in order to be able to run. As I worked toward those goals, I continued to read about amazing women who had overcome seemingly insurmountable struggles through running.
Pam Reed and Lisa Smith-Batchen are two women who stood out to me in particular. Both world-class endurance runners, they had run races like the Badwater Ultramarathon (a 135-mile race across Death Valley from Badwater, California to Mount Whitney… in July) and the Marathon des Sables (a six-day run across the Sahara Desert). They both run as a way to combat- or at least appease- their inner Eeyores. I found their stories inspirational and knew that when I was finally able to run again, I would never again take the opportunity for granted.
And so today, as I sit on my couch, endlessly blowing my nose, frustrated that I have not run as much as I had planned to this week or last, and even more frustrated that my motivation has waned, I am prompted to think about why I run. There is the obvious reason, such as wanting to stay healthy and fit, but my reasons for running are rooted far more deeply than that. Running gives me a certain courage and strength that I have not been able to find elsewhere; it brings me peace; it keeps me present and in control of my worries and fears; and it confirms that even as an Eeyore, I can still find happiness within myself. Most of all, I run because I can… and I will continue to run for as long as I can.
Thank you for reading!