Every year, I used to joke that I was going to give up smoking for lent. As someone who has never smoked a cigarette, this is a pretty good indication as to the extent of my religiousness (plus there was that time I told my dad that church made me feel sick and that other time I told a woman she had something on her forehead on Ash Wednesday). Anyway, this year, I gave up running. And before you start thinking crazy things, it wasn’t a decision I made by choice because, duh, why would I voluntarily stop running? That would just be silly.
Last season was not-so-fun — I was coming off of a rough experience with adrenal fatigue and then had a consistently tight psoas in my right hip that turned into tendinitis (fun fact: your psoas is the oh-so-delicious “tenderloin” muscle that runs from your back to the front of your hip). My left knee was sore, which I, being the “smart” runner and scientist that I am, ignored and assumed would magically go away. I ran the Hartford Marathon in October 2016 and then beat the crap out of my body in the JFK 50 miler 6 weeks later.
Post 50 miler. Only a little bit of blood.
That’s, like, a lot of steps.
I took the usual 2 weeks off and while on vacation in Florida, insisted Sam and I go for a run. I took 3 steps and it felt like someone was stabbing my kneecaps. Like a dope, I ran/hobbled 4 miles, and was near tears the entire time (I should mention that the tears were also because I have a serious fear of getting eating by a gator). As soon as Sam and I got back to the hotel, I googled “runner knee pain” and diagnosed myself with tendinitis, arthritis, and cancer. Because, WebMD.
Fast forward a few weeks+visits to my orthopedist+MRIs, and an ugly crying session (or six) and I’m staring at MR images on my computer at work, thinking that it’s a good thing I work across the street from Hospital for Special Surgery because I need both my knees replaced, and despite the hardware, I’ll never run again. Definitely thinking clearly and rationally. A few hours later, I got the radiology report and pretty much lost my shit. In addition to a torn labrum in my right hip, there were a few other fun surprises: two swollen kneecaps, a few cysts, and not one but TWO meniscus tears. Wait. WHAT? Torn meniscus? How is it that I played basketball for over 10 years without a single knee injury and now I have complex and lateral meniscus tears? After talking to my (incredibly calm, patient, understanding) orthopedist, he advised that we were only going to deal with the injuries that were symptomatic. In other words, ignore the cysts and meniscus tears. Phew. I like the way this man thinks.
It stopped running for 11 weeks and 2 days. For most, this time off would be a welcome respite. And in the beginning, it was actually kind of nice — I put in more time at work, I baked and cooked (translation: I ate), read more books, caught up on sleep, went shopping, and put my Netflix subscription to good use. To deal with the sadness of having to cancel my Boston Marathon hotel reservation and to skip a few local races, I tried to look at the time off as a good thing and rationalized that everyone needs a break once in awhile. I’ve been running for over 12 years without any serious injuries. My body (and mind) needed a rest… right? I put my running shoes and Sparkly Soul headbands away, I had a feeling that I’d be taking it easy for awhile.
After a few weeks of “active rest”, my positivity started to wane and I grew antsy. My clothes started to get tight (ugh). Things seemed less like fun and more like chores. I was in a bad mood for no particular reason (sorry Sam!), and the littlest things made me anxious. In other words, I needed to burn energy. I needed my quiet time back. I needed to run.
On Patriot’s Day, I watched the Boston Marathon on TV, teared up pretty much every time they showed Meb, got sad when Des Linden fell off the lead pack, and cheered Jordan Hasay in her marathon debut. I worked at an NYCRUNS race in Prospect Park and got chills when the gun went off, wishing that I was racing that day. After spending many hours with my physical therapist Dan and hanging out with the meatheads in the gym, I finally feel like I’m on my way to being an athlete again.
I have callouses on my hands, my hamstrings are sore, and my pile of dirty gym clothes is growing (and stinking) more every day. It’s awesome.
My doctor is “cautiously optimistic” and “pleased” with my progress. He’s given me the green light to run 10 miles a week. I used to run more than that in a day, but right now, I’m happy to run 10 (pain-free) feet. Because, if I can progress from 10 miles to 15 and eventually back up to 70-80, I’ll be able to run that 100 mile race in October.