|Maybe Lake Tahoe at dawn is what hope looks like.|
Not running in a race and not running particularly fast. Just running on my old trails around the Northern side of Tahoe which isn't surprising since I've been home for two weeks-- the longest I've been home in a little over two years since enrolling-- and graduating-- from a Master of Fine Arts program in the Bay Area.
So, when I woke up this morning and put my weight on my foot and it once again didn't hurt-- it hasn't hurt for a week, in fact-- I thought, perhaps it's finally time to see if I will ever run again.
They say Lisfranc injuries are among those that may never heal. I've lived the last four months in fear that I never would, again. Or-- that's not quite true. I've been running for about four years now and have survived tendinitis of about every tendon in my legs and ankles, two stress fractures and a ruptured Achilles... so I began this recovery cycle with what you might call savoir faire. Or maybe common sense is a better way to describe it: I didn't immediately think my life was over and I didn't do a lot of crying. This time, I acted like a sane person: I started swimming nearly every day with a competitive master's team that practices near my home and joined a cycling club for lovely, long rides on weekends.
I made the best out of my injury.
In fact, I have to say that, of all the times I've been injured, this season has been the most productive. I've learned the butterfly stroke and can do it for 50 meters-- in a 50 meter pool which is something I never EVER thought I'd be able to do. I've ridden 90-100 miles every Saturday in a spring and near-summer full of Saturdays, seeing some beautiful country with an amazing group of people. In all, an injured runner could do much, much worse.
But today, I felt it. The call of the run. The overcast conditions made the green of the evergreens beckon me, somehow. The chipper call of squirrel cast me back into those 10-mile days when I ran 70-mile weeks as though the distance were nothing. I slipped into a pair of trail shoes-- the same Salomons I started running in four years ago, and set off into the quiet, dim morning.
Unlike so many runs leading up to races and in various training cycles, today I had no expectations. No pace to keep. No time to meet other than to turn around at the ten-minute mark (advice from an old Runner's World Magazine, quoted by a BYU Cross Country coach who suggested not running more than twenty minutes for several weeks after returning from a long absence from the sport.)
To the familiar beep of a Timex watch, I began my journey.
At first, it was not the most comfortable thing I've done.
Some joints were stiff. Others, too loose. I found cycling has made my quads quite strong, an imbalance that made my stride not what I remembered it to be. My upper body has also acquired strength from my training sessions in the pool. And yet, after one half mile I'd found it: that old running cadence. Not a fast pace, but a rhythm of breath and step where movement feels as though it's the most natural thing in the world.
I found my running again.
The quality of light; the flicker of shadow and tree; the slight heat of the body as a halo from the elements; the in and out of breath. I lost minutes, I lost myself in the run.
I had no ipod tucked into my shorts or music in my ears (other than the music of me); it was just me and running and I lost track of time-- something I haven't done for four months.
While running, I became that version of myself again I've been missing. I became beautiful and young and full of hope for what might be. I was not fat and not a failure and not too old and not too short or too slow or too ugly. I was exactly as I should have been, in that moment.... and that was a thought and a feeling I have missed for longer than this injury. I remembered my first run, my first twenty-mile run and my first marathon... four years ago, I was lost and I found myself in the miles.
My writing career, I believe, began when I decided not to be afraid of running-- when I decided that excuses such as "I wasn't built to run" were no longer valid ones.
Today, I only ran for 25 minutes, but somewhere in there, I found the best part of me, tucked away and hiding.
Perhaps I will never actually be the things I imagine when I run-- but the point is that I feel them. I am beautiful no matter what the world says, when I am covering miles with the power and strength in my own body.
I hope this is the first run of many, many more... that I will run 26.2 miles after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride.
Mostly, though, I've missed the part of me that runs, the silent but persistent warrior who recovers the memory of the person I was and who I wanted to be: me who believed that dreams were worth their pursuit.
And me who pursued them.