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!

Dear Me, Life sucks and it’s gonna get worse. But after that…

Dear Jess,

So you don’t know me (yet), but you will.

First off, before you read this….  SPOILERS!  (One day, you’re gonna find that funny and pity anyone Who doesn’t get it.)

Right now you’re 18, pregnant, and scared out of your mind (and too proud to admit you have no idea what you’re doing and just how scared you are).   Things with the father of the child you’re growing are bad…  and they’re only going to get worse.  For the first time in your life, all you want is your mother (you’re too proud to admit that too).

You’re about to do something that, a week ago, you would have punched anyone who suggested it… you’re going to ask your mother to take you in.  You have it in your head that you’ll move back in and put everything in the past behind you.  You’ll finally bond and she’ll be there to talk you through all the hurt, fears, loss and confusion you have right now.  You’re clinging on to that picture in your head for dear life because you don’t have anything else to cling to…  it’s the only hope you have.

I wish I could tell you that it works out that way, but it doesn’t. Continue reading