I miss running.
I miss running so much.
I miss all of it: figuring out where to run, piling on miles, watching my monthly total go up. Looking for a race and then signing up for it and then not missing it but actually running it.
Training for races: having a plan, having rest days, running long every Thursday. Imagining the course, shopping for a race outfit, buying a new pair of socks (I always race in new socks).
Or, running when I’m not training for a race, and working on getting stronger and faster.
I miss running on hot July mornings when for the last miles a sweat beard swings on my chin.
And running on those warm early-spring days when you don’t expect it to not be cold, and you step outside and it isn’t cold, and so you race back in and put on your running clothes and go running.
Autumn running—I’ve missed two consecutive years of autumn running, when the mountains are on fire and the air has that cool zing to it.
I miss feel strong and in shape and confident in my body.
More than anything, I miss running without fear.
I’m not a stranger to exercising with sprained ankles; it’s a thing I’ve done since I was a gymnast. I’m not afraid of pain.
But I am afraid of falling again.
I took my first tumble during my night leg of a Ragnar race four years ago. I caught a rock with the side of my foot, twisted my ankle hard, and went down. There were a few runners behind me but I told them I was OK and they kept going, and I tried to shake it off and keep going, because it was a leg without van support (as, literally, every single one of my Ragnar legs were) and what choice did I have? I walked for a bit, and then I started running, and then I twisted it again out of sheer ligament strain, I’m sure. A fire went up the tendon on the outside of my leg, like a bad special effect in a cheesy movie, only under my skin. (I walked the rest of the five miles of that leg. And then the next morning I got taped and I ran ten more miles. Downhill. Praying not to fall again and willing my brain not to feel the ankle pain. I’m not sure it was exactly the right choice.)
When I went down the second time in, oh…ten minutes, I thought Gah, I hope this doesn’t change everything and then a little voice said this is going to change everything but I imagined it would mean in, say, thirty years when I was an old great grandma, I’d be Great Grandma Amy always complaining about her sore ankle, and saying “remember that time I sprained my ankle at Ragnar but I still ran fifteen more miles?” to Becky, and all of our grandkids and great grandkids would think we were crazy.
I didn’t really think that changing everything would mean right now.
Because while I ran another Ragnar and a couple of half marathons after that first ankle sprain, I’ve never really trusted it. My running psyche never really felt confident that I wouldn’t fall again.
I’ve been to countless PT appointments. Ice, stim, A-stem, massage, exercises. I’m best friends with the BAP board and really should just by my damn own.
Last year, I thought I’d found an answer in a PT who did needling, which is like acupuncture, sort of, but with electricity. My ankle felt the best it had since that night run at Ragnar.
But then this September I sprained it. And then in November I sprained it again.
And now, again, I am trying to be a runner.
I'm cross training and I'm very, very slowly adding running into the mix.
But I am afraid I will never be fully myself as a runner again.
I am still working out, but machines at the gym just aren’t the same. I think because they only move my body, not my spirit, I can’t seem to exercise enough to see any results. I’m feeling softer and softer, weaker and weaker. It is just so boring, slogging away on a machine inside a building next to other sweating exercisers. There is no exhilaration.
I’m doing my ankle exercises. I started with writing the alphabet in the air (in print and in cursive) and by now I’m writing Russian literature with my toes. Running man and dynamic calf stretches and stretches with a band. I balance on one leg with my eyes closed while I “watch” tv, I balance on one leg while I’m at work and when I’m standing in line at Costco and when I’m scrapbooking. You put me and a stork in a room and tell us to balance on one leg and I will kick that stork’s trash. (Unless I have to balance on my left—bad—ankle, and then the stork will probably beat me.)
And I’ve worked up to running one whole, entire minute, and then walking for three, and I can get 8 or 9 reps of this before the fire starts up my leg again. And honestly, it’s not even the fire. It can burn. It’s the looseness in the joint, the instability, the untrustworthiness. And it’s the way, as soon as I start into my running stride, that my brain starts imagining how I might fall.
I miss tying my shoes in the garage when everyone else is still asleep, and slipping out the side door. I miss running outside with the wind and the weather and the sky and the sun. I miss feeling confident enough to head out for five or eight or eleven miles because I knew I could always get myself back. I miss running Squaw Peak Road. I even miss jogging in place while I wait for a stoplight to turn green.
I just—I miss running. Deeper than my fear of falling is my fear of never running again, not like I used to, and I don’t want to be that person, the person who used to be a runner. I just don’t know how to get back.
I hope everything isn’t changed, really, forever.
So this is my appeal to the running gods: Please help me run again. I promise to never again be sad to sit on the race bus by myself, if I can just get strong enough to race again. I promise to never complain about blisters—in fact, I will cherish every blister I make. I promise to never again disparage my chubby thunder strong thighs again, but love them for carrying me the distance. (See what I did there?) I promise to make sacrifices to you in the form of new running shoes every 300 miles or so. I will captain a relay team. I will volunteer at races. Did I ever take running for granted? Maybe. But I promise to never again.
Just let me be a runner again.