Never have I considered myself to be an athlete. I was always more of a bookworm (which, happily, I still am). Even with 14 years of dance in my younger days, “graceful” is not a word that describes me. Clumsiness finds me, especially when stairs are involved. I once sprained my ankle tripping DOWN the stairs. And once ended up with stitches in my knee tripping UP the stairs. Handrails were invented for people like me.
I took up running a little over a year ago. At the time, I had reached a weight-loss plateau and needed something to move past it. I’d tried running in the past, but always hated it (for reasons I’m sure you can imagine). But I was determined. My friend Wendy, an amazingly fast and talented runner, suggested I sign up for a 5k, you know, to have a goal. The Charleston Marathon’s 5k was my first ever race, January 2011.
My goal was to be able to run the whole race. I didn’t care about time…I just wanted to finish. Finish I did, in a flood of tears. As I came around the last turn and saw the actual finish line, my heart jumped to my throat. I started to cry the happiest tears, thinking “I can’t believe I actually did it!” At the time, training for that 5k was probably the hardest athletic thing I’ve ever done.
Fast forward to May 2011. Two more 5k races under my belt. Heartily I announced to my girlfriends that I want to run the Charleston Marathon’s half marathon in January 2012. Signed up in July. Started training in October.
Training early on was a breeze. About halfway through, around Thanksgiving, I hit a point of “ugh, WHY am I DOING this???” Perhaps it was the turkey and dressing. But, again, I was determined.
On December 18, I had an epiphany. I ran 8 miles, my longest run ever. It took me 90 minutes, but I didn’t care. That is when I finally said, “Oh my gosh, I AM a runner!” Now people, this is after 4 races and over a year of regular running. If that’s not reluctant, I don’t know what is.
Then the fateful New Year’s Eve of 2011. Clumsiness strikes again. I’m about halfway through a 9-mile run (yes, ladies and gentlemen, 9 miles) when I roll my ankle on a rogue sidewalk. The pain in my ankle was immediate. Luckily my friend Alvin was home and able to come get me. The prospect of limping another 3.5 miles home was not appealing.
A week later, I finally gave in and went to the doctor. And ended up in a boot (aka “Das Boot”). Diagnosis: a strained, possibly torn, posterior tibial tendon (uh, ok??). Two weeks away from my goal of running my first half marathon, and I’m in Das Boot. My first sports injury. While I wanted to wear it like a badge of honor, I couldn’t help but be depressed that I got so far only to have my goal just out of reach.
Fortunately I was able to cheer on my friends Lita and Hillary as they ran the half marathon. I had that same lump in my throat, holding back conflicted tears. Proud and happy for my friends. Sad that I wasn’t crossing the finish line with them.
Several friends have said to me, “This happened for a reason, you just don’t know what yet.” And that is true. Was it for a spiritual renewal? Was it to learn what true athletes go through? Was it to make the attainment of my goal even sweeter when I do finish a race? God still has to reveal the answer to me. One thing I do know. I miss running now. After weeks of not running, I actually miss it. Reluctant? Not anymore.