I have been dreaming of this day for months:
When I was in the urgent care waiting room, anxious and in pain…
While I was on my crutches, listening to their click, wrists aching and mind spinning…
As I was sitting on the stationary bike, pedals rotating dully and frustration mounting…
The day when I got to run again. But not just any run, that first day when I’d be able to run in the mountains unencumbered by pain or injury, feeling strong and prepared to hear the pounding of the earth beneath my feet once more.
Today is that day. But it is not my first run.
I have fought so hard to get to this metaphorical starting line. It has been five weeks since I was first cleared by physical therapy to take even one step-of-a-run. I have worked through their run-walk program that only allowed me to start running for the smallest increments of time. Strength training and being committed to daily PT exercises were part of the program to get me here. I have endured the weight of deconditioning and the instability of baby deer legs. I have felt the squeeze of emotions-of elation and disappointment, of dread and fortitude, and, most of all, the power of stubborn determination.
And now, it is time to run. A real, live, uninterrupted mountain run.
My nerves are a bundle of live wires as I dutifully complete my five minute pre-run warm-up walk. There is frost on the cold hard ground and my breath hangs in front of me in a small white cloud. But the skies are blue. The mountains are as if I never left, and returning feels like visiting with an old friend. We are picking up where we left off. My husband, John, and my friend, Rachel, chat casually beside me, but I am far away, my mind’s eye staring across the great chasm of my injury and all that I have been through. The symbolism of this run is not lost on me. I am turning the page….
The timer on my watch beeps, and I am running.
The pines file past me like sentinels as I gain speed down the single track. The air is chilled and clean, and I have forgotten how cleansing a crisp morning mountain run can be. I am moving forward but never too fast. The burden of almost seven months of healing my bones has taken its toll, but I give myself the grace to know that this, like all things, is temporary. I pay attention to my body in ways I never could before, a result that comes from dealing with a long-term injury.
And just like that, the run ends abruptly, almost as quickly as it started. 30 minutes on mountain trails. But that 30 minutes is foundational to what is to come, to the new beginning I am building. I cannot reach my long distance goals without being able to run for 30 minutes. So here is where I’ll start. Here is where I’ll grow.
The theme of my journey remains the same as it did back when I told you about the clicking of my crutches. If there is one thing I want to leave you with, it’s hope. The kind of hope that elicits work and investment on your part. The kind of hope that whispers, “there are brighter days ahead,” and pushes you to carry yourself, however you can, towards that light. It will not always be easy. In fact, it usually isn’t. But I can guarantee, when you are finally standing on the other side of that canyon looking back over the challenges you have overcome, it will be worth it.
Whether your efforts during your climb were propelled by a changing of circumstances, a shift in mindset, or both (I find it is often both that accompany the conquering of obstacles), it will be worth it. Keep fighting. Take one more step. Then another. And another. Let’s believe in each other, in action-filled hope, and let’s press on. If I can, you can too.