When a Runner Can’t Run

I’m a runner.  

Or, I was a runner.

Sometimes, I forget I’m not a runner anymore.  And when it hits me that I can no longer call myself a runner, a wave of depression comes over me that has, on occasion, actually knocked me down.  Thankfully, it’s a short lived fit of self-pity (usually) and is often shoved aside quickly by a quick trip up or down some stairs.

The pain in my knee is a pretty good reminder that, once the pain is gone, I will be a runner again.  (Sometimes, it sends me into a downward spiral where I’m convinced I’ll never even be able to walk up and down the stairs again, but that’s not really important right now.)

I had no idea how much I associated being a runner with who I am until I couldn’t run.  There was only one other time in my life that I had such an identity crisis…

During the first date I was on with my husband, he interrupted me to exclaim (with a rather terrified look on his face), “Oh, God!  You’re a Christian!”  He actually backed away from me when he said it, as if I might somehow infect him with my Christian filth.  We had already been surprised by his being 7 years younger than me… and he had already told me that he hated kids.  To which, I responded that I had two. He didn’t so much as flinch.  (Not even when I went out of my way to try to make him. hehehe)  But when something escaped from my lips that made him realize I was a Christian, he looked a little disgusted.

Now, you might think that I would be upset about his reaction…  I wasn’t.

I was more upset that he wasn’t able to tell before our date, before I confirmed his accusation, before whatever the words were that had escaped my lips at that moment, what my beliefs were.

All I could think was, “I’m a Christian.  I’m supposed to be shining Christ’s light in this world.  Every action and reaction I have is supposed to exude love.”  Obviously, if he was that shocked by my being a Christian, then I wasn’t shining a light in the world.  He had seen me many times before our first date.  We had even gone to lunch a couple of times before that night.  If I was bringing light to the dark, it would have been obvious at this point…  but it wasn’t.

And I had to really search myself.  I had to redefine my role in this world.  I questioned whether I really was a Christian.  Did I have any business calling myself that if it was THAT big of a shock for someone to find out?

That’s pretty much how I feel now when I let the words escape my lips…  “I’m a runner.”

Writer’s write.  If I wasn’t writing, I couldn’t call myself a writer.

Runner’s run.  If I haven’t ran in months can I really call myself a runner?

It’s a pretty simple concept.  Let the identity crisis begin…

About a year ago, I fell during a race.  I sprained my shoulder and had a little pain in my knee.  I figured the knee was just scraped and once the scabs went away, it’d be fine.  That wasn’t the case.  The doctor said I’d probably torn my meniscus.  Without an MRI they couldn’t tell for sure.  I needed to have an x-ray, which they said wouldn’t be able to tell them anything really if it was a tear, but the insurance won’t pay for the MRI without an x-ray first.

I’m stubborn.

The knee pain wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t run on it, so I decided not to worry about it.  I iced it after every run and, except for the post-run swelling, it was fine.

In January, my husband and I ran a half-marathon in Arizona for our anniversary.  After the race, a pain in my stomach that I had been experiencing on and off for a few months became nearly unbearable.  It grew worse as the months wore on.  I couldn’t run.  Some days, I could barely walk. The pain eventually led to me having surgery in May.

That race was my last long run.

Once healed from my surgery, I was excited to get back out on the road.  But it wasn’t quite the homecoming I had expected.

Over the months of inactivity, my knee had gotten weaker.  It’s no longer able to absorb the shock of running.  Stairs cause me to grit my teeth.

Yes, I should probably go have the stupid x-ray.

But I’d rather build the strength back up in my knee. I don’t want to end up out for another year because I had to have another surgery (which is what the doc is pretty sure I’ll need).

The problem?

I’m a runner.

I’m a runner who cannot run.

Building myself back up to where I was is going to take time.  And a lot of patience and determination…  and I have to get over the fact that I cannot run.  Before I can run, I’m going to have to walk.

To me, running is fun.  The world just looks and feels different when I’m running.  The time passes almost too quickly.

But walking???  Walking is boring.  Time passes way too slowly.  Everything looks and feels exactly the same as if I was sitting on my front porch.

Basically, the problem is that I cannot get myself motivated to walk.  I’ve tried listening to a book while I walk on the treadmill (I hate treadmills).  I’ve tried listening to music, but it just doesn’t help.

Today, with the help of a new friend, I think I’m finally ready to say “I’m a walker.”

I woke up this morning and had no desire to go for a walk.  I gritted my teeth and grimaced at the crackling and pain as I walked up the stairs.  I was NOT in the mood for a slow, boring, walk up and down the hills I know I need to walk to get my knee stronger.

But I had someone waiting for me.  I couldn’t cancel, I was the one who asked her to go with me.  And so, I went.

And I had a great time!

She didn’t mind that I had to take it easy as we made our way not just up, but down the hills (down is a killer for me right now).  We talked and laughed, and the time just flew by…  I went much farther than what I thought I would be able to!

Without her, I honestly wouldn’t have made it there today.  I wouldn’t feel as accomplished as I do now… I’d be sitting here sulking in the fact that I can’t run, instead of joyously proclaiming that I walked today!

And eventually, I WILL run again!

15 thoughts on “When a Runner Can’t Run

  1. Isn’t it interesting the labels we give ourselves AND then we try and live up to them for what others think of us…when really we are all things at different moments of now AND a beautiful child of God, who is all things to all of us…so see you are a runner…it is a given

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    • I don’t think it’s so much what others think of me that makes me question my “runner” status. I think it had just become so much of who I was and what I did that when I couldn’t, it felt like I’d lost a bit of myself (if that makes any sense). You’re right though. Thank you for your encouraging words! 🙂

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  2. Definite identity crisis going on! But God gives grace, when we know we need it and when we think we don’t. I can speak to knee injuries, and they are awful. Some of the worst pain in my life was when I blew out my knee in a soccer game, and then the year and a half afterward, recovery and realizing that I wasn’t recovered. (The initial doctor had missed my torn ACL and menisci.) Recovery was hard, but I’m glad I did the surgery now, because it allows me to run and remain active with minimal pain. The surgery was tough, but it’s better to be out for 6-12 months rather than out for the rest of your life. I hope your insurance pulls through on what you need so that you can get this problem fixed!

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    • Thanks! I know I need to stop being so stubborn, I just have it in my head that I’ve already had surgery once this year… and that’s enough! I’ll deal with surgery next year! Yes, I know that is completely idiotic… yet, I seem to be sticking to that lol

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  3. I feel your pain literally and metaphorically! I had years of knee trouble that was never fully diagnosed but in the end I think I actually ran through it. Mine was obviously more a transient issue that was exacerbated by weakness around the knee from several years of pain-induced inactivity but I know even when I did my first ever half marathon after I moved to Cape Town (race was in April 2011) I could barely walk for three days after it. Since then my periods out of action have been mercifully short but I can relate to the frustration it must be causing you.

    On another note…a nicely constructed post! Not easy to tie together four major aspects of your life (family, religion, running and writing) into a single readable post but you nailed it here I reckon 🙂

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    • I’ve got you beat… After my first half, I stayed in bed for almost a week. I thought my legs might fall off lol! Thankfully, I did learn from that experience. I trained better and managed to not be half dead afterwards. I actually finished a half once that I ran with my husband and I was feeling so good I was upset the race was over. I thought he might kill me when I tried to get him to go for a run the next morning! (If looks could kill, I would be dead right now.)

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  4. You certainly own your claim to authorship, for your writing is clear and well done. I, too, feel your pain as I’ve had knee problems for years. A personal trainer helped so much and I do hope to get back to that at some point. And you’re right, being with someone does help the time go by faster and makes it a more enjoyable experience.

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  5. I hope you’re able to get back to running someday soon! I also wanted to say, even just as someone who only knows you through your blog, I doubt your husband’s lack of realization had anything to do with you not exuding love. Probably it was just because, sadly, so many Christians don’t exactly give each other what you’d call a loving reputation. As a gay man, so often my first reaction to [statement indicating Christianity] is to quickly peer around for pitchforks and picket lines. Even though my best friend is a Christian, and even though I should know better. Awesome people like you have my deepest sympathy, honestly.

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    • Thanks! 🙂 I LOL’d when i read “pitchforks and picket lines” but I completely agree with what you said about Christians not having a loving reaction. And it’s not just to non-Christians, but with each other as well. It’s sad. The two main characters in the book I’ll be writing for NaNo are a gay man and his Christian best friend so that’s a little funny you mentioned that in your comment!

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  6. Killer identities, I don’t wear hijab and never will I don’t even believe it is an Islamic thing, I drink I speak French (native like) am inked and I have a dog (not appreciated by many “so called Muslims” so when it is know in one way or another that I am a Muslim people go into a state of chick and make comments like but you speak French like us not like Arabs, you look too good to be a Muslim or wow your not the average Arab Muslim person ! I instantly feel that those people are stupid racists because those ” compliments” are nothing but insults really…

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    • Yeah, I’ve gotten those kind of “compliments” before about numerous things… I could write a book on all the racist crap I’ve heard before and after someone has found out I’m mixed. I can’t count how many times I’ve told someone that if they have to tell me they’re not racist because of something they just said, then they probably are… they never agree.

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