After a 14k run one evening, I was experiencing considerable limp-inducing pain behind my left knee and in my knee cap. I looked it up online and discovered I was experiencing something quite common. After reading through the causes and symptoms, my own personal diagnosis was that all the distance I had been running wasn’t being properly compensated with intentional strength-building. As a result, my thigh muscles were too weak to fully support my knees, especially my left one. And after all, it’s my knees that bear the full wait of my body at every stride.
Running does something to you. And everyone experiences this “something” at different levels. At some point in every run, no matter what how much of an athlete you are, you’re hit with the realization that you must push yourself. In fact, it even feels like you need to push through yourself, as we can sometimes be the greatest obstacle to our own success. If you do not thrust yourself forward in this effort of mind over body, you will stop.
This point of effort looks different for everyone. There are so many factors and so many different triggers for individual inspiration and emotion. Maybe it’s the scenery. Or the adrenaline. It could be the sensation of sweat soaking your body or a landmark you see in the distance. Perhaps it’s a weight loss goal or the memory of a late loved one. We take hold of these things and mentally thrust our bodies into the next level of physical intensity.
Running takes you out of your comfort zone. It literally gets you off the couch, makes you sweat, speeds up your heartbeat, increases your need for oxygen, and at some point all you can think of is how much you want to stop. But then you don’t, and that’s where “something” happens.
Running is a journey, and different people will take it to different levels, different places, for different reasons. Some run all over the world. Some go on a race craze, religiously running marathons and local races every week, in every country, every state. Some faithfully commit to pounding the pavement of a neighborhood park or a nature trail. Some are contented with a stable routine of speed and distance, while others will push themselves and constantly see how far and fast they can go.
And like any journey, there are obstacles – both expected and unexpected, surprises, interruptions, delayed flights or miscommunication about the hotel booking. Even abrupt endings and emergency return trips home.
Athletes experience these kinds of setbacks all the time, and every time they must make a choice between paralysis or progress. Sometimes, their choice is not theirs to make – there was too much damage, the injury much too severe. A serious shift in lifestyle is required for recovery. But those who make any kind of progress always inspire us. Some go even farther than they did the first time around.
Alas, here I am in my own journey: at an unexpected interruption requiring me to take an emergency return trip to square one. And if I don’t take heed, I may never run again.
A few friends and I are registered to run a half marathon in a week. One has already pulled out due to health reasons and another because of a scheduling conflict. These things happen. And then one of “these things” happened to me: patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee)…
I tried running again, but that time 8k killed it, and I finished what was supposed to be a 12k run in a painful and angry limp home. With only a little more than a week before the race, I knew I needed to do something different if I wanted to keep my knees and run a painless 6k ever again.
And so here I am, at an unexpected interruption requiring me to take an emergency return trip to square one.
How do I feel? Angry. So angry. And all this anger I would normally deal with through running.
But remember I said that running does something to you? Here’s what it did to me. It gave me power, a power that is actually not my own but from everyone and everything else in this world that has inspired me to run. It’s like I get to experience this universally shared power, an energy shared by every single runner on this planet. And the thing is, I can’t keep this power. I can only keep running, because that’s why it’s there: to keep us all running.
Running has done something else to me. It’s made me turn this life-long ideal of fitness that I always thought I valued into a reality. I’ve let different things get in the way of this due to laziness or being too busy. But running has showed me that this something I want to fight for, that fitness is the string of consistency that I actually need in my life. It’s a system of physical accountability, and things like patellofemoral pain syndrome remind me that it’s all the little things that can either keep you running or keep you from pushing the distance.
And I’ve also realized that things like anger only get in the way.
So here’s to that “something” that running does to us. And here’s to the power that keeps us all running. And I will keep running. My journey’s just being re-routed. It happens. Running can do that to you.