This morning, as I got out of bed, I thought, “I think I’ll never run again.” Surely that won’t be true, I hope, but it’s kind of how I feel today. I have a running hangover.
It’s very difficult to find the balance as I get older. What is too much as far as pushing myself physically, and what is taking it too easy, making no progress, watching what little muscle I have quickly, so damned quickly, turn soft. My mind and body have always wanted to go at things pretty hard. Sometimes that has served me well. Sometimes, it’s ended up in me getting a broken rib, because my bones were a little soft from years of prednisone, so an upside down push-up challenge ended up not being a good idea. But that was a long time ago.
One of my sports medicine doctors, and I’ve had a few, told me a few years ago, you’re working out like you are 24 in a 42 year old body. In order to recover from the injury I was nursing at the time, he said, I’d have to think in my mind what half the level of my typical exercise was – in duration, in intensity, and consider what half might be … AND THEN DO JUST A BIT LESS THAN THAT. This was almost completely unacceptable to me. But, in the end, was what I did, in order to achieve rehabilitation. It’s very hard to use that kind of restraint.
I try to hit the middle ground in a lot of ways in life. Sure, I can enjoy some pizza and wine, but I try to balance out the rest of my meals for the week to make up for it. I try to teach my son the same balance. You can have cheetos, but it’s a once and awhile thing, not every day like they try to give you in after care. And you need to do something to balance it out physically.
So I perhaps overshot yesterday. I ran 9 miles, the longest I’ve ever run, and it took me an hour and forty-five minutes. Jesus, that’s a long time. Two years ago, I struggled to run a 5K. I mean, a 5K is still pretty challenging for me, you know? But yeah, I had in my head that I wanted to push to the point of 9, and I did. My R hip flexor started singing a weird tune around mile 5, but it actually got better – or my adrenaline overtook it, by mile 7. But my L foot started hurting around the same time, and didn’t get appreciably better. That last mile was so slow and painful, I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I wanted to see if I could, and I did.
These long runs, which I don’t do every time I run, are therapy for me. I don’t mean they’re therapeutic, I mean they’re actually like my therapy. I work out a lot of shit on these runs, mentally. I often run after my son has been given to his Dad for the week ahead, and the loss of his physical presence in my life is as painful to me as being shot full of holes. I see his half-eaten sandwich still on the table in case he wanted to come back to it later, and throw it out; no little boy will eat that sandwich here for another week. I see a book we were in the middle of reading that we intended to finish, and put it next to his bed – the book waiting and hoping for us to crack it open again soon and disappear into its pages. I change his sheets and launder his blankets, gently smoothing everything when I make his bed anew, and trying to make it so nice for him so that when he returns, it will be just so.
Other problems that cause anguish pile on, one layer on top of another, like the ice and the snow and then the ice and slush that were on the running path. Things that tear at my heart, like some flesh-eating fish biting little pieces off and swimming around inside me, wreaking havoc. Oh the highs and lows of this life are so hard to take.
I can’t deal with the pain. It makes me feel like a trapped animal. So I get out there and pound my body on the road – literally yesterday, since the running path was too icy and snowy to even attempt more than an occasional stint. I’m lucky as hell I didn’t get hit by a car. I don’t think I’ll be running in the road again. I was in so much pain last night turning over in bed, I felt like I DID get hit by a car. I know my body has the power to recover, but I’m going to baby it for a few days. I need it to last. I need to rely on the physical shell especially when my mind is swirling nonstop. I wake from very busy dreams every day with a tired jaw as I am suddenly clenching my teeth when I sleep. I need to relax; I need release.