Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Run, run, run!

I admit that I have a long relationship with "running", despite an almost equally long hiatus from the activity thanks to knee issues. I've never been a tremendously athletic person, but I have been active, on the whole, and running is such an efficient and easy way to be active. It isn't cheap to buy shoes, but once a person has proper shoes, good socks, a decent pair of shorts, a jog bra and some nice t-shirts, then why not go out for a run? It is much easier here in Southern CA to 'gear up', I'll admit. I first "got into" running when I lived in Philadelphia, and I ran on hard, pounding, uneven streets and the weather left a great deal to be desired. I do love the fact that I STILL own and wear frequently a shirt that I bought when I was 24 (back in 1996!) and training for my first and last marathon. It's a blue, Patagonia (see, I love the Patagucci) long-sleeve shirt with a zip-up neck. Yes, it has seen better days, but it still works. It kept me warm but not too warm during the marathon, which I finished in just over 4 hours, if I recall.
Fast-forward to 2003, I was training for my second marathon (I had actually already trained for my second marathon, but did not run because of an injury). A few weeks before the race, I went skiing in Tahoe and went down a black run which isn't a good idea for me in the best of conditions, and these were completely shitty. I turned, but my knee did not really respond. To top it all off, we were in the more "back-country" area, so no one else was around. Fortunately, ski patrol did come by, and strapped me into one of those stretchers as they put me on two different lifts before I made it down to the Squaw Valley ski 'clinic'. Apparently the snow was quite bad because they had seen more than their fair share of screwed up knees for the day. It was slightly comforting to know that I wasn't alone. It ended up that I had partially torn my meniscus, so it mended with time. Within the next year, I could run, and I did, but I found that I could not run long distances. A few miles here and there, not too often.
I resigned myself to that, and the few miles became fewer and fewer over the years. There did not seem to be anything WRONG with my knee, but there was either pain during or after a run, or both. I missed the convenience of going out for a run, and I hated that I felt out-of-shape from lack of a HARD run, but I adjusted. No more backpacking, and I was careful when I hiked on the downhill. Definitely no skiing, downhill or Nordic, but I didn't miss it that much. It's an expensive sport at any rate.
And so I logically explained away so many physical activities that I truly enjoyed. I picked up cycling and tried to get "into" swimming (without much luck). I was pretty healthy. No worries.
Then, last March, I was playing ultimate frisbee at a school event, and I performed a quick stop, cut and turn. Then I experienced sharp pain and limped off the field. A few months later, I finally had an MRI which informed the doctor (and me) that my ACL was completely torn. That would explain the fact that my knee seemed to shift unexpectedly quite often, even when I was just walking normally. Great.
So, an operation and MONTHS (going on five fucking months) later of physical therapy, the doctor gave me the green light to start to run.
Which is great, except that I am nervous and scared about running and it is still a painful activity because I am weak (or my muscles are). Not to eschew the "no pain, no gain" philosophy, but it's hard to return to running, both physically and mentally. Still, I'd love to be able to take longish runs through local trails, around the Rose Bowl, along the bike/running paths in Santa Monica and on south, experience Runyon Canyon and other popular trails and maybe even run a 5K race here and there. All of these options entice me, offer me a world that I don't know and haven't experienced.
So, it's up to me, to build up the strength and tolerance, to find that "sweet spot" when running feels good and when nothing else matters. Despite the feelings of nervousness and the physical effort that it will take, I look forward to the challenge of running and exploring.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Injuries are so frustrating, but I know that full recovery is possible (my parents are physical therapists and deal with this quite a bit). It's one of those humbling experiences, when you have to be patient with yourself and find what feels right with where your body is at right now. I always compare to how I felt 5 years ago or whatever, which only frustrates me more. I have a back injury that changes the way I can do yoga (the only exercise I truly LOVE), and that aggravates me a lot, though I think I've come to some peace about it. I think it's great that you have so many cool goals. There are lots of places to run or walk or hike in Southern CA.