Waiting to Run

Remember when I used to run and write mostly about running?

I do. Barely.

My beloved running trails have been replaced with an indoor elliptical machine; the running pants that once covered my pasty, wintry, but fit legs have been replaced with ice packs and kinesio tape. And bruises. 

leg

My left leg looks a bit battered after my physical therapy treatments. The therapist uses Active Release Techniques (ART) and Graston therapy, which uses metal instruments to manually breakup adhesions in tight muscles. It’s not pleasant, and it takes some time to recover afterwards, but I do feel that it’s helping overall. The black kinesio tape on my IT band is supposed to increase blood flow under the skin. I’m not entirely convinced of its efficacy, but I know it can’t hurt to try it.

Running my usual loops on the DC-area trails seems, in some ways, like a distant memory. I think of those days wistfully, wondering what the trails must look like now that spring has sprung.

Am I feeling sorry for myself? Admittedly, yes, a little. I know. I’ll stop.

Am I being overly dramatic? Probably.

Am I really just grumpy because I can’t run right now? Definitely.

In reality, it has only been a few weeks since I was forced into a bit of a hiatus from running due to knee pain. It’s been a month, to be exact, since my knee swelled up like a softball after my last long run. An aggressive physical therapy treatment plan has yielded positive results for the most part… so much so that with my therapist’s recommendation and that of a couple of other professionals, I decided to cancel the MRI that I had scheduled for my knee.

It appears that the problem is more of a soft tissue injury than within the joint itself (thank goodness), at the root of which are overly tight muscles and tendons around the knee. This, combined with scar tissue and the residual effects of knee surgery, has created perfect conditions for difficulty with knee flexion and irritation to the nerves in my left leg. The nerve pain is what is troubling me the most right now, even more so than not being able to run. A tingling sensation radiating through the entire length of my leg, besides being uncomfortable and distracting, has been keeping me up at night, both from the feeling itself and from worry over what it could mean.

My therapist assures me that this is a but minor setback, nothing to be concerned about, and that yes, I will be able to run again one day “soon”. That day was supposed to be today, but upon closer evaluation this morning, he recommended a few more days of rest. I’ve put my trust in him, his expertise, and his plan, and am trying not to get too down as I wait. After all, what other choice do I have? Gone are the days when I would ignore professional advice and rely on the resilience of my youth to get me through just about anything. But, as every runner knows, waiting for the approval to run while injured can seem like an eternity.

Meanwhile, I am doing my best to stay fit and train for the Riga Marathon in other ways. I’ve gotten a lot of walking miles under my feet in the last several weeks, and have built up to 13 miles for my long “run” on the elliptical machine. I’ve been keeping up my strength training and have gotten in some swimming. In fact, I am probably the fittest I have ever been while injured (thought I can shake the feeling that I am gaining weight because I am not running).

The few times I have run in the previous month (four, to be exact, short runs, “just to see”), I have felt OK. One of those runs was a 5K I had signed up for a few months ago. I’d planned to run it gently, to assess how my leg felt, and ended up with my fastest time in more than a decade. If nothing else, the experience showed me that I really can stay fit through cross-training, and that miles on my feet do not always have to come from running. I’m so grateful to have access to these other forms of exercise while my leg heals, although they are not quite the same.

Not even close.

That’s because I don’t run simply to get miles on my feet. I run to explore, to meditate, and to feel free and unencumbered. I run to clear my head and to think. I run to bring everything back into balance, and to make everything OK. Running is, and for so many years- decades, even- has been my lifestyle. I run to be me. And when I can’t run, I am not myself.

In the meantime, I wait.

Thank you for reading!

6 thoughts on “Waiting to Run

  1. I can scarcely imagine the level of happiness you must find in running to go through so much to get it. I expect that if I were to take my most satisfying and happy moment, work harder than I ever have in order to reach higher than that, and then multiply it by a factor of love to the nth power, it would be like that.

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    • Thank you so much for such kind words, Bruce. I know most people don’t “get” my running, and that’s OK. They don’t have to. It brings me peace and comfort in a way that nothing else can. I imagine (I hope!) that everyone has something in their lives like that. Thanks for your support!

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