Over the last few months, a few people have asked me, “How did you start running?” At first, this question took me off guard; because until now, I’ve been surrounded by people who also run so the question was simply never asked. Also, I’ve done so much writing about my running journey that it has never occurred to me that I’ve actually never shared how this all started for me. There has been bits and pieces and references but nothing complete. So here it is. Unabridged and in 3 parts. Enjoy.
I tore my ACL when I was a junior in college. I wasn’t doing anything awesome. During my college years, I was an active and involved student who ran around attending and planning events; I was no athlete. You could hear me at athletic events, but I didn’t play any sports. Only intramural stuff, which never went anywhere. How did I tear it? Concert. The initial injury happened at an outdoor mosh pit, and then I completely hyperextended it at another show by simply coming down on it wrong as I was vigorously jumping up and down to the band’s final song.
Not being an athlete, I was not prepared for such a physical setback and the wait-time between the doctor’s diagnosis that my anterior cruciate ligament was indeed torn and the surgery. The operation was a good month away; meanwhile, I limped, used crutches, and was slow. Not my cup of tea. I did not enjoy being slowed down AT ALL.
Finally, the day of my first ever surgical operation came. The anesthesia pulled me under, and the next thing I knew my was friend holding peanut butter toast in front of my face. My butt was completely asleep. My friend took me to her home, where I spent a prearranged week away from school to recover. The muscles of my right leg were emaciated, moving around was inconvenient, and painkillers were a necessity.
Physical therapy was where everything started. I had to regain range of motion in my right leg, and I literally needed to learn to walk again. It was in the moments I spent after my pt sessions icing my sore knee that I had a “physical awakening.” I had become aware of my physical self.
I always knew it was there. I use my physical body every day. But it was in that moment when I met my physical identify. It was like I had come face to face with my physicality in an almost transcendent way. She was talking to me.
Physical self: Hello, I am your body.
Conscious self: Hi. I think we’ve already met.
Physical self: Yes and no.
Conscious self: What do you mean?
Physical self: You know me, but you haven’t really been including me in your life.
Conscious self: What are you talking about? I use you every day!
My physical self didn’t say anything else after that. She really didn’t need to.
My doctor told me to get off the crutches. (Yeah, I was still using the crutches. Apparently, I had trust issues with my physical self.) Building up strength was essential to my healing process. So in addition to my weekly pt sessions, I started taking walks all over the campus in my free time. And as soon as my range of motion came back, I started biking 3 mornings a week before class. The image of my emaciated my right leg after the cast was removed days after surgery drove me on to regain and restore physical strength.
The doctor also told me that I would be able to run again six months after the operation. Now, when he told me this, it didn’t really mean anything to me at the time. Like I mentioned earlier, I was no athlete. However, there was a suppressed aspiration that getting reacquainted with my physical self had freed.
All my life, of all the athletes I would watch on television or see in real life, I admired the runners, bikers, and swimmers most. As a kid, I would root for joggers from inside the car as my family and I drove by. There was something there; it was literally like my physical self was waking up.
I marked August 11, 2008, on my calendar, exactly 6 months after my ACL surgery.
I ended up working as a housekeeper that summer at the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center in Cannon Beach, Oregon; so when August 11 arrived, I celebrated my post-surgery progress by running on the beach. I was winded after 15 minutes. But I didn’t stop.
I got up to 3 miles that summer, running on the beach nearly every day. I kept it up throughout my senior year of college. I got up to 4 miles on a treadmill. I also started distance-biking on local trails. I had begun actually living with my physical self. And it was awesome.