“You’re not allowed to run.”
Some of the worst words a runner could hear. Almost as bad as hearing that your perceived great health isn’t quite what you thought it was. Or learning that something has taken up residence in your body, wreaking havoc on everything in it’s path, in turn creating your own personal version of hell.
Regardless of whether temporary or long-term, feeling a loss of control over something so vital as one’s health is one tough pill to swallow. Literally. Combine that with the oh-so-dreaded doctor’s order “no running,” and you’ve got yourself a mess. Not the mere “it’s inadvisable to run” or “you should take a week or so off to rest,” that prompt usual counters of “just how necessary is this?” or “what about easy running?” or “what will happen if I do?” Instead a very forceful “You CANNOT run or you will be faced with a medical emergency,” and that’s it: no amount of questioning or negotiating can penetrate that barrier.
This past year, it was my turn to receive this sentencing. And as much as I like to make my own rules and defy all reason to go with my “gut feeling,” this time I had to officially resign my stubbornness (at least in this respect) and listen to the doctor’s orders. Heeding all warnings, I was forced to forego all running for long periods of time as we sorted through everything that needed to be done. Over the past six months, there have been 18 weeks that were completely free of my favorite means of release, and to say it’s been a struggle would be a serious understatement.
In a desperate attempt to find peace in my “sentencing,” I first resorted to talking myself through my many emotions, starting with the reminder of how much I ‘don’t love’ running in the heat and humidity of the summer months. That, along with processing the cause for this order, got me through the first week. A previously scheduled anniversary vacation helped me through most of the second week. It’s hard to be anything but happy in tropical paradise. But once I got home with just enough free time to allow a wandering of the mind, I was officially bouncing off the walls. Not out of worry that I’d lose the fitness I’ve worked so hard to obtain, although that fear is realized and ever present daily. While there was certainly disappointment over being sidelined at the summer 5K races that I was geared to PR in, I was grateful for the opportunity to watch and support my family and friends who are just beginning their running journeys. It’s not even about the uncertainty of when I’ll be able to train for and run my next marathon, or my first half marathon I had planned to run this fall. It all comes down to uncertainty, plain and simple. The unknown.
I will admit I have been struggling physically, mentally, and most definitely, emotionally. While I’ve always been an optimistic soul who can find a positive light in every situation, this has been the biggest challenge of my life, causing me to question so much of what I’ve always been so sure of. It certainly doesn’t help that my greatest and most effective therapy has been taken away. I can’t just go run these thoughts out of my head, clearing my mind and renewing my perspective, nor can I pound the pavement, forcing out feelings of angst and frustration like I usually do. I can’t just take off down the road, breathing the fresh air into my lungs, the wind blowing onto my face and ripping through my hair, nothing but the sound of my breathing and footsteps, taking in the beauty of all nature surrounding me, each step pushing me farther away from all that plagues me, stripping away any fear, anxiety, anger, or unwanted feelings that had been weighing me down…until I finally feel free again. Running has been a huge source of coping and comfort for me, never failing to take me exactly where I need to go.
As I was looking through inspirational running photos and old e-mails, feeling increasingly sad and sorry for myself, I came across an e-mail I had sent over a year ago to one of my family members. She had been struggling with her own health at the time, and I had sent her a message of encouragement and healing, assuring her that not only would she bounce back from that downtime, but when she did, she would undoubtedly blow past any of her previous accomplishments and expectations, whether physical, mental, or emotional. My message was as follows:
There are many things outside of our control, and sometimes our bodies and overall health don’t cooperate, even when we do everything right (but realistically, does anyone do everything right ALL of the time?). It can be scary, but that’s why our bodies are such amazing machines. They communicate to us through symptoms so we take better care of ourselves. It’s up to us to listen and take actions to correct it.
Stay positive and tell yourself you WILL overcome this. I believe that so much in life is mind over matter, and what you believe often becomes your reality. Focus on what you can control, and all you have going for you (health-wise and life-wise). I’m certain that list is much longer than what’s going against you.
Life isn’t meant to be perfect – it’s meant to be lived, which means it can get messy at times. So get up off the floor, dust yourself off, and unleash your spirit so you can get back to being YOU. All we know for sure is that we are here today, so embrace it for all it’s worth. <3<3
As I read my own words, I was instantly moved to tears, knowing I not only had to ingest my own guidance, but I needed to remind myself to heed and live by those words each and every time I start to lose faith. Practice what I preach and help myself like I’ve helped so many others. To do otherwise would suggest that I don’t believe in my own values and theories, which I do…wholeheartedly and with all of my being. I have 100% faith in what I say when advising others, and when I encourage someone to reach for their own goals and never stop dreaming huge. It’s not just lip service or a blog title – it’s my passion and life ambition.
Each day I’m taking my own words and getting myself through this major road block. By engaging in my other favorite past times: spending time with my ever-so-supportive loved ones, reading, writing, watching my favorite TV shows and movies, and engaging in what physical activities I can do to maintain my energy reserves. While these aren’t nearly as effective as my running, it has helped me to expel some of the many emotions I’ve been battling over the past six months. It’s not easy, but I’m getting somewhere.
I know I will prevail. I have to. And when I do, I know my road will be there waiting for me as though I never left. It will understand if I have to be back at square one, am significantly slower, and have to stop for rest breaks. But no matter how long it takes, this is one determined soul who will make her way back to right where she left off. Scratch that. Better. And stronger than ever.
For those of you who can, please put on your running shoes, and get out there and do it. Don’t take any runs for granted, even the bad ones (unless they are painful enough to indicate injury, of course). You never know when that day may come when running may be taken away from you, temporarily, long-term, or heaven forbid…indefinitely. Just like in life, bask in your present, enjoy your “here and now,” and for God’s sake, LIVE…DREAM…and RUN.