Being an injured runner teaches you a lot of things.
It teaches you to get out of your comfort zone and try different activites to stay fit. (I'm learning to love biking in the colder weather - something I never thought I'd do!- and even took the mountain bike out for a spin last week, for a change of pace).
It teaches you that life can (and must) go on without running, and even though you have days you want to just sit on the couch and mope because you can't do what you want to do, you have to get out and do what you can do, because you'll feel better for it.
It teaches you that although you do have to try at all costs to maintain a positive attitude and keep moving forward, it is ok to occasionally pout and whine and seek the empathy and support of your running friends who have been there, done that - just as long as the pity party doesn't last for days, because all good parties must come to an end eventually.
It teaches you that your identity is very much wrapped up with running, and you aren't quite the same person when you can't run, but you definitely aren't any less of a person, and it might make you discover some parts of yourself that you forgot were there.
But most of all, being an injured runner teaches patience.
We runners are not generally a very patient lot. We want to get out the door and get our miles in; we want to train for our races and see the results asap. We don't want to wait around for months and months for our marathon - we want it to be here now! And as we cross each finish line, we barely take time to celebrate the accomplishment before the wheels are spinning and plotting our next race and our next training schedule and our next PR.
Sitting around waiting for your body to cooperate does not fit into those plans - at all.
Sure, you can go to physical therapy and do your exercises and your stretching and your strengthening to help the process along (and you should do those things!), but your body's only going to heal as fast as it's able to heal, and the fact is that you don't have a whole lot of control over that. Loss of control - a runner's other nemesis.
For the first week or two that I couldn't run, I was ok. I missed it, but I cross-trained like a maniac, filling the hours and days with elliptical, stairmaster, bike, and weight workouts. The third week I felt anxious, waiting for the MRI, and then the MRI results.
The fourth week the depression hit, and it hit hard on the last day of that week, when I was certain that I'd never heal in time to start my Boston training. And that even if I was able to start training, it would be at a much different level than I had planned, and I envisioned myself having to run/walk from Hopkinton to Boston, a far cry from the PR I had been thinking I could try for.
Then, a funny thing happened. After a day of moping and sulking and pouting and whining, the fight just left me.
And once the fight left me and I accepted that this is just where I am right now, and there's very little that I can do to change it, I felt SO much happier.
I do still worry a little about where I'm going to be when my first day of Boston training is supposed to begin. I've run a couple of times in the past week and it's going alright, but I'm still very cautious and nervous. And I still worry about whether or not this issue is going to crop up again during my training.
There's still plenty to worry about and plenty to be bummed about - but the difference now is that I let those feelings in and out freely - I think them, I process them, and I move on. I don't let them fester.
And that has made ALL the difference in the world.
I'm happier. I'm less moody. I'm more positive that even though this is a rough road for me right now, things will get easier, and I will get back to being the runner that I was before. It will happen, and it will happen when it's supposed to happen.
I'm also less obssessed. Not being able to run left me feeling like I was losing all of my fitness that I've worked so hard for, and I felt the need to spend way too much time at the gym, and set my alarm for way too many 4:30am wakeups.
Most people deal with overtraining when they're getting ready for a big race - I was having all the signs of overtraining without having run a single step, because I was so busy trying to overcompensate for the lack of miles run.
But I've backed off, and only get up early a couple times a week (and make much more of an effort to get to sleep earlier the night before). And I realize that just because I can't run doesn't mean I have to spend nearly 2 hours at the gym 7 days a week.
Treating my body with a little more respect, instead of running it into the ground, has also done wonders for my attitude. I'm still spending plenty of time working out, but it's at a reasonable, and far more enjoyable level.
And not exhausting myself day after day leaves me a little more time and energy to do fun stuff with my kiddos, and that is one of the most important things of all -
And as for Boston - I know in my heart that even though I'd love a PR this year, that's not what Boston 2014 is about. And when I think about running those miles and crossing that finish line, deep down, I know that the numbers on the clock aren't going to matter this year. Just being there is what matters. And to get there, I need to be healthy, so I need to be smart, and I need to be patient.
A friend posted this on her Facebook page a week or so ago, and when I read it, I thought - "yes, that's IT!"
In the waiting, I have become. I have become the runner I need to be right now, because I know that's what will help me become the runner I want to be for the rest of my life.