Call me stupid, but I really thought with my late-in-life entry to the running scene that it would grant me a long running lifestyle. Sure, I ran cross country for 4 years in high school but I hung it up after that. I didn’t resume running until I started pursuing triathlon in 2005. By then I was 34. That’s kinda late right?
I think I always had a smart outlook on injuries. I listened intently to my body and never ran through (the bad kind of) pain no matter how small the amount. I’ve watched friends and competitors sidelined by the usual stress-induced injuries like tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, itb syndrome, etc. and never had a bout with any of them myself.
Until this. And where did this come from?! I avoided all the regular injuries and out of nowhere after having the best triathlon of my life at Ironman Florida 2012 I come down with a freak severely damaged knee, yet not even the surgeons involved point the finger at the wear and tear that results from running. My femoral condyle cartilage defect was as far from the typical “take two weeks off” prognosis as it gets, and now here I am 8 months and 2 surgeries later without the capability of a jog across my living room. I will have spent 4 months of the last year on crutches or in a wheelchair by the time I get through this.
I saw myself running into my seventies. I saw my competitors that have been runners since high school sitting on the sidelines while I kept going. I’m struggling with a reality that my runner’s lifestyle is a finite part of my overall life. Perhaps I can eke out 2 more Ironmans after this surgery but that’s being optimistic. A knee replacement is coming and I can’t stop it. And that’ll be it for my running.
It seems the following theories continue to baffle me:
1. “You better not run too much because you are only allotted a certain amount of steps in life.” Well some of you sure as hell got to take a lot more than me. What’s up with that?
2. “How can the right knee have gotten worn out if the left knee ran just as far and is just as old?” That’s some sound logic right there.
3. “As soon as you turn 40 your body falls apart.” Tell Dr. Bob Morrison that. Now in his late 70’s, he’ll be competing in Eagleman in a couple weeks.
So I’m beginning to see that it’s not so much the really fast folks out there that are the phenomenal athletes. A 2 hour marathon?! An 8 hour Ironman?! Please. They only run that fast because they don’t have the stamina to stay out on the course as long as we do. So, your marathon took 6 hours? Now that’s impressive! The sorry excuse for an athlete that won the race finished 4 hours ago and was back in bed recovering from his wambly muscle soreness while you were still out there suffering on the course. Pure badass right there if you ask me.
No, I’m starting to understand the real athletic specimens are the ones who push their bodies their whole lives and, at the age when the rest of us accept our Geritol cocktail and retire to our recliners, are still out there competing no matter how long it takes them to reach the finish line. And if you ever meet one of these guys, you’ll notice that they do it with a smile and a humbling attitude – that it’s about the journey, about being there, about simply doing something for how it makes you feel and not about what the clock says or how far the other guy was behind you.
Maybe I’ve already had my shot. Maybe I’ll come back after recovering from this surgery as strong as I was prior, or strong enough to continue the sport I love. But while I sit here recovering and pondering what it all means the lessons are burning in, and if and when I get a chance to run again I hope I savor every glorious stride as if it’s my last. Because the last one is coming and, when it does, I hope I’ll be able to let it go and move on.
Just. Not. Right. This. Yet.