My various knee injuries and their subsequent surgeries exacted a brutal toll on my fledgling running career. My second ACL tear, although technically occurring while running, resulted in over a year away from the sport. I began light jogging late last year, but didn’t get the green light to resume running from my orthopedic surgeon till a couple weeks ago. Which was good, since no fewer than five 34-for-34 items were designed to get me back on my feet.
Last week, on a truly glorious early spring evening in what’s been an historically warm year in Calgary, I ran outdoors for the first time since 2013. And it was agonizing.
At first I felt great: I was outdoors, the weather was perfect, and I’d assembled a killer playlist for the occasion. But it quickly soured. After a kilometre I was gasping for breath and carrying a stitch that made it feel as though a knife had been plunged into my shoulder blade and was extricating my arm from the rest of my body. The playlist began taunting me (“Tonight, I’m a rock n’ roll star,” eh?). Everywhere people glided effortlessly past. I continually had to remind myself that they likely hadn’t had three knee operations in the last two years, that they’d likely run more recently than 2013 for that matter, but it wasn’t easy. In the end I “ran” five kilometres, but the last four of those were roughly divided 50/50 between running and walking. And then, adding insult to injury, a telemarketer called as the playlist was reaching its glorious climax (the “we’ll ride the Ferris wheel” line from “The Backseat” by Gaslight Anthem). I came home and collapsed, forgot to stretch, and spent the rest of the week in discomfort that verged on actual pain. This was not Willis Reed in the NBA Finals.
But it was something. I ran again Friday; it wasn’t much more than a light jog, but I made it through 3km with only two (short) walking breaks. Tomorrow (or Wednesday, if it doesn’t stop snowing–yes, in spite of an historically warm year in Calgary the “in Calgary” bit’s the operative part) I’ll try the 5km loop again. Running it in under thirty minutes before August 16 is going to be difficult…but running a 10km road race, say, the week before? That might be feasible. Slowing down before speeding up isn’t necessarily my forte, as compellingly demonstrated seventeen months ago. But it’s a mantra I’ll be repeating again and again in the coming months.