All that whining and complaining and dissing of running I did last week? I take it all back.
No sooner had I turned off my laptop and laced up my track shoes but the running gods turned the full force of their considerable wrath upon me.
As you might recall, I was heading off for a 26-mile run last Saturday morning.
But at mile ten, a mighty, searing pain did strike my right knee and all but smote me as I jogged with my running crew down Burbank's shady lanes.
Here I'd been thinking I was immune to injury. I'd followed all the rules, getting (almost enough) sleep, eating (sort of) right, sticking to the prescribed running schedule. I was a textbook example of the hubris of the uninjured: injury wasn't possible.
To be fair, I'd suffered a similar debilitating ache during the 23-mile run. Not knowing any better, I continued, mile upon mile, barley limping across the finish line. But within hours after the run, the awful, raw feeling of a knee made of grated skin and bone disappeared and I experienced complete pain amnesia, not unlike what one encounters after childbirth (as the mother of two children, I know if what I speak).
So when the pain revisited me on Saturday I was taken completely by surprise. Once it settled in, however, the memory of the 23-mile run came back to me with alarming clarity and force.
I knew I would not drag myself through miles of pain again. And so I did something I have never once done during this entire epic six-month training. I stopped.
Before setting off without me, my running crew hugged me goodbye. "Don't feel bad," they told me. "Take care of yourself." Off they ran, feet in motion, while I stood there, feeling strange to be standing still.
To console myself I imagined how annoying it must have been to all the other runners that I never tripped or ached or quit. Finally I was getting my comeuppance.
Serves me right, I thought, as I sat in the shade at a water stop, waiting for Linda Francisco, the fundraising coach, to haul me back to the start line. You gripe, you pay. I thought back on what I wrote last week and realized I hadn't quit on running. Running had quit on me. It was like deciding to dump someone, only to have them beat you to the breakup.
Linda was happily photographing volunteers who had set up special themed water stops in celebration of this 26-mile lunacy. At one stop, moms in sombreros served shots of Gatorade. At another, with a car wash theme, several young ladies in cutoffs lounged around an authentically massive 70's-era boom box.
Back at the start line, still more volunteers were setting up the finish line, complete with a red carpet and balloon arc. Linda encouraged me to stick around and collect my medallion, but it seemed silly to take credit for a 26-mile run when I'd only made it to mile 11.
It was all of 10 a.m., giving me plenty of time to do all sorts of things I hadn't thought I'd have time for. I went to my son's soccer game, helped my daughter wrap a birthday present for a sleepover party and shopped for curtains for our living room.
I thought about running the entire time.
I'd look at the clock and think: "11 a.m. - they're at mile 18 by now--I hope Rachel's knee is holding up. Noon - it's still pretty cool out - I bet everyone is cruising right along. 12:30 - hmm - did Sandy bring sunscreen?" And on and on.
The degree of my disappointment surprised me. I had no idea how much I'd been looking forward to subjecting myself to endless hours of repetitive, high-impact motion. But I had.
So what of this mysterious pain? Both times it showed up around mile ten, a searing ache that grew in intensity as the miles mounted. I'm assured by many running veterans that I'm suffering the symptoms of an injured IT band, one of the most common running ailments and eminently treatable.
But when I showed up for my appointment with an orthopedist this morning, it turned out that an error had been made (those damn running gods!) and my appointment isn't until next week.
Good thing tomorrow's run is only eight miles.