The Elusive “I” Word

As runners, we have all uttered that word… that “i” word. Now, this is a very tricky word, one that we don’t like swirling around in our brains. And, we certainly don’t like to say it…for obvious reasons. If you are one bit superstitious, you will think long and hard before this word escapes your mouth. In fact, even if you are not superstitious, you probably should keep this next statement in mind.

It is only truly safe to say the “i” word in certain situations.

Situation #1: You are currently injured, and you are talking to another person, preferably a sports doctor or PT about your recovery plan.  They tell you not to worry, that you will be running again soon.

Situation #2:  You are with a fellow injured runner, maybe doing pool running or biking together. You are discussing what plagues you and strategizing how you will each make a COMPLETE RECOVERY. You are even talking about the next races you will do together. Note: Someone who used to run and was permanently sidelined due to injury should be avoided at all costs.

Situation #3:  You are injured and have found someone who has successfully recovered from your very same injury. Suddenly, you feel as if a kindred has entered your life.  You cling to this person with all your might, email them, consult them with every question. If you are single and they are the opposite sex, you may even think they could be your soul mate. (Extreme case, but possible, I’ve seen it happen.)

Other times… you skate around this word. You may ask things like, “anything hurt today?”  You may shyly ask a fellow track mate if the curves are making their knee caps hurt as well. You pray they say yes, and sometimes they will lie to you in order to shut you up and dispel your worries. Then your partner will sort of laugh this discussion off and talk about how when you are accomplished runners as you both are, something is always bound to hurt. If you are the person who brought up this silly “pain” issue today, you now feel a bit of relief, attributing your nagging knee pain to the miles. Your running partner, who you brought it up to, is now considering his body and scanning it for potential aches and pains. Is that Achilles’ acting up again? No, no…it’s the miles.

Unfortunately, sometimes those miles really do start to add up. And, before you know it, you DO have something to talk about.  Sometimes, friends, you find yourself INJURED.  Now what?

Let’s start with the obvious. Being injured is uncomfortable physically. It can be very intense, or mildly annoying, depending on the type and severity. Being injured is also annoying. You may now have to maneuver crutches, wear special shoes, or worst of all… be confined to a bed or chair.  Being injured is also… one big hassle. You have better things to do with your time than go to physical therapy, pack your bag with pool gear, and scrub your head for hours to get out all of that darn chlorine.

Last, but most certainly not least, being injured is INCOMPREHENSIBLE to runners. We don’t like to NOT RUN. We don’t like to see other runners running on our way to work. In fact, we may find we temporarily don’t like emailing or talking to our running friends.  It is just too painful and depressing. We WANT TO RUN, and an injury might as well be a PRISON SENTENCE.

We wonder what message could possibly be found in this devastating halt to a hobby that brings us so much joy. Well, like everything in life- sometimes we don’t realize the importance of something until it’s gone.

Sometimes, it takes us being sidelined to really see what’s actually happening in the game. The game, of course, being life.  When an injury forces its way into our lives, we have no choice but to… stop running.  Switch things up a bit. Maybe sleep in a few Saturdays. Have dinner with our families instead of hitting the trails after work and eating in front of the t.v.

And maybe, we will stop long enough to realize that running is like everything else in our lives that we love. As much as we want it to always be there for us, we are not guaranteed of this. So, perhaps its best to treasure it and appreciate it while it’s there. The same goes for all of those people and things we discover when we’re not running.

Enjoy your life… on and off the trail, friends.

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