At my last appointment I told the PA that I was a runner. We were talking about how I felt and how much I could do and when. The running threw her, possibly because she had just written down my weight and looked at my blood pressure. Both of which say more about my love for donuts rather than endorphins. She told me that I still had more swelling than they’d like and that I wasn’t quite ready. That I needed to focus on walking, Netflix and slowly building myself back up. To ask her again after I could make it through the day without a nap and go grocery shopping without breaking into a cold sweat. She started to give me a textbook lecture on listening to my body, going slow and not overdoing it. Clearly I wasn’t paying attention or she remembered that I was the girl who kicked the walker away in ICU and that maybe she’d have to give me some clearer boundaries. She told me to get to where I can easily and comfortably walk a 5K. Then I could start jogging. Slowly. Then get to where I can jog a 5K comfortably then I can run longer and harder. Period. The end.
I know it is crazy but I love a good long hard run. The kind where I sweat through my clothes and develop a fine layer of salt on my body. I have rarely won any races, because it is never about winning but going further and faster than I did the last time or think I could. My brain is quiet when I run mostly because there is no energy for anything other than breathing. I feel strong when I run. Ok, that isn’t true. I feel like quitting or dying when I run. But when I get home I feel strong. I’ve written about running over and over again. Pace, finishing strong and endurance. I figure if I can find those things on the asphalt that maybe I can find them in other places in my life as well.
For the last month or so I was laced up my tennis shoes, sometimes with pajama pants and shuffle around the block or through the park. Recently I have picked up the pace (a little), the distance and at least put on shorts. I don’t even bother to make a playlist (which is usually my biggest pre-run prep) because the headphones still bother me.
These days I am a walker.
I keep to the right.
I am filled with jealousy every time someone bounds past me with their water bottle and new shoes.
I look longingly at every bench I pass and wonder if it would be ok to take a quick nap on it.
But I keep walking.
I think maybe I could try running just a little.
But I can feel my head pounding and know this is a bad idea.
Right now I walk. Damn the old lady who just blew by me.
This is as fast as I go.
My brain is still a flurry unlike when I run, even though I am exhausted.
I try to be kinder to myself.
To tell myself that I am healing.
That I need to not be in such a hurry.
That if these runners who keep passing me on my left only knew what I was healing form that they’d be high-fiving me.
That internal kindness doesn’t last too long.
I keep pressing, until I know my legs can’t handle anymore.
Today I walked four miles and it felt like I ran 40.
My face was pale. I could feel my blood sugar plummet and my muscles twitch.
Today on the trail I saw a runner wearing a tank that simply said, “rest later”.
Ironically she was walking.
Distance runners are trained to push through walls and pain and your body telling you over and over to quit. There is a time to push. To go harder and faster.
But for now, I have to do the exact opposite. I have to pay attention. I have to listen, and be patient.
I need a tank top that says “rest now”.
At the moment I have a very physical wound, but it could just as easily be an emotional one. I have a list of restrictions and a timeline from my doctor, yet I still struggle to compare myself with all the wrong people. The ones going faster and further than me. On the trail, or pretty much everywhere else in my life.
I wrote everything you just read above three weeks ago. Since then, I have tried to run a few times. Short distances at a snail’s pace. Sometimes with success, sometimes with pain. Stopping at my first hint of nerve pain. I usually don’t keep up the pace long enough to pass many walkers. But for the few I do, I see them a little differently. My smugness is gone. I notice them. I smile or say hello. The walker in me doesn’t feel quite as strong as the runner, but she is definitely kinder.
She knows that you often have no idea what someone else is healing from.