Five weeks ago I went to a session of Moms on the Run – a running club I joined, kept meaning to write about and never got around to – and I had a mediocre run. We were doing sprint intervals. It was 6:30PM and still in the low 80s/upper 70s and it was humid. The mosquitos were out in full force. And even though I knew it would probably be a bad idea, I brought Huck along because it had rained for three days and was finally sunny and he looked super sad.
So, mediocre run. I haven’t really adjusted to the heat yet and am allergic to mosquito bites (which means they LOVE TO EAT ME), and Huck wanted to stop and pee on everything. I was the very last person to get back to the starting line, and the running coach came to look for me, worried something had happened to me back on the trail.
I probably ran six times with MOTR, and every other run was pretty terrible. The heat was a doozy, but I also had trouble with my asthma – stupid Minnesota spring/summer and all those pollens I’m not used to – and also struggled with the mild rolling hills on the trails we ran.
However, the not-bad runs were great and motivating. I ran faster than I ever have before. On a couple of occasions I was the first back to the starting point, and one time another runner told me I was an inspiration. As someone who had to walk part of the mile for the President’s Physical Fitness test in middle school, that was a pretty cool moment.
The good runs were enough to make up for the bad ones, and I started out on the trail every time believing it would be awesome. I was convinced I could find a home with MOTR, a group of women for future happy hours and commiseration about our kids. I’ve been sort of aimless on that front since moving, and I really, really wanted it to be true.
So when I woke up on Monday morning after that last terrible run with a stabbing pain in my heel, it was a blow not only to my fitness goals but also to the baby steps I had taken to find a personal network in Minneapolis. On Wednesday, which should have been another MOTR day, I instead took a slow walk on our treadmill. The pain got even worse. I use a standing desk at work, and by that Thursday was spending 80% of my time sitting in a shared workspace. On the weekend I tried more treadmill, had more pain, and turned to Google. What I have seems like a textbook case of plantar fasciitis, and everyone I’ve talked to says it’s a real doozy. It can take forever to heal, and at least one runner I talked to says it can be managed but never really goes away.
For the last five weeks the pain in my heel has been constant, to varying degrees. Instead of running I’ve been taking a barre class, walking inclines on the treadmill and swimming. Some days I wake up limping and some days I’m fine until I sit down for any length of time and then try to walk somewhere. After two weeks it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to run the half marathon that happened on August 2, and now it’s clear that I’m going to lose the last half of my MOTR summer session.
This is not the first time I have had a setback with running. In 2001, when I was first starting to be serious about it – meaning I was registering for 5Ks and making it my main form of exercise – I stepped off a curb and suffered a bad sprain. A dozen minor sprains followed, leading me to an orthopedic surgeon who told me the problem was actually in my knee, which led to minor surgery and physical therapy. Eventually I would run my first half marathon, stopping for a block at mile nine to stretch what felt like fluid out of my knees. A few years later I was spraining my left ankle every time I stepped on a crack in the sidewalk, which led to a full ankle reconstruction and three months in a cast. I’ve had terrible blisters and lost a toenail. I have asthma. I have pain in my hips after running hills.
Basically, I should stop running before it kills me.
But I love it. Nothing else feels as empowering to me as completing a long run with enough energy left to sprint to the finish. I love that feeling of running as fast as possible to the stop and the way my heart pounds and my breath comes out in ragged puffs. I like the sweat.
I’ve called myself a runner for so long that it has become part of my self definition. And, like so many other parts of me that have been redefined over the last year, I’m trying to get to a place where I can feel healthy and happy without relying on races to make me feel whole. At first I was super dramatic, like, I WILL NEVER RUN AGAIN, but that was just the heat of the moment, I think. For the last month I have tried to do something every single day, whether it’s a barre class or a hike with Joel and the dogs or a swim or walking hills for an hour on the treadmill. I’m trying to let go of the frustration of not running, and to redefine how I get healthy and feel good about myself. I’m trying to be okay with running as a sometimes sport instead of the only sport.
I’m doing okay, but every time Joel goes out and runs I want to punch him in the face. It’s not his fault that he’s built for it, that he can not run for months and then do three miles at a 7:30 pace. But I mentioned I’m competitive, right?
I just need to get over myself and get on with it.