I hadn’t been running in months. I had injured my right hamstring, and, needless to say, running had been forbidden by my doctor (and Kyle, my physical therapist).
Until I got permission to start again last week. “Slow and short,” I’d been advised by Kyle. “Slow and short.”
That seemed restrictive to me, but I agreed. I was in his care, after all. Then I laced up my sneakers (it had been so long since I’d run that I forgot to double-tie them!) and headed out. I quickly realized that slow and short was my only option.
I had lost everything, or at least almost everything. I never actually ran fast or long (my longest run to this day is six miles, and my fastest pace for anything three miles and over is probably just over a nine-minute mile), but I’d gotten to the point that I’d felt proud of my speed and distance. Now, not so much. All I could do was plod along and feel like, as my son would say, “poo-poo in a can.”
“Am I slower than I ever used to be?” I questioned. “Even when I first started?” I told my husband and he explained that one loses running ability quickly. More quickly than one would think possible. “But I’m so slow,” I thought, even as I tried to believe what he said.
I tried to have faith. I tried to keep running, and to not beat myself up for being so slow. “I’m not allowed to go faster,” I’d remind myself.
Then I headed out one morning, bright and cheery and eager, until my RunKeeper paced me at over 10:15 per mile. “Seriously Lisa!” I thought. Still I plodded along.
I saw a man a ways in front of me. “I can take him,” I thought. Who cares that he was, it seemed, at least a few years older than me? Who cares that he was maybe (also) nursing an injury? “I think I can take him,” I thought. “Even at this absurdly slow pace, I think I can take him.”
I did. I took him. I smiled and pumped my fists (as much as I could, jogging along). Who cares that he was older and perhaps injured. I wasn’t slowest.
Then I realized that I hadn’t judged him for running slowly. I simply took him as someone I could possibly pass. So, of course, I probably shouldn’t judge myself for running slowly. Even if he was the only person I could pass, unless you count the people heading towards me.
And, of course, running didn’t have to be a competitive sport. I could give myself a break, as I was coming back from an injury. I could actually give myself a break for no reason as well. Just because.
I could give myself a break, in running and in life. I could lower the bar, or gleefully accept (and rejoice) wherever I hit on the bar. I could enjoy the run, even if I went slow for the rest of my life. (And I probably won’t go this slow for the rest of my life.)
And I could be psyched – so psyched – that I passed someone!
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