Thursday, February 18, 2010



It seems a strange thing to say but the (undiagnosed at the time) tibial stress fracture that I acquired the week before the Philly Half may have been one of the best things that has happened to me as a runner. Prior to that I was always a nervous wreck about my joints, obsessed with what surfaces I ran on, obsessed with keeping a very slow pace; I ran in constant fear. Then the fracture happened; the limping, the anxiety, the constant doubt. I didn't complete my last 3 training runs. The night before I was in such excruciating pain that I didn't even want to walk to the start from South Philly. When I got up to the Art Museum at 4:30 that morning I decided that I would run until I blew up. I didn't know if I'd make it the first hundred yards, the first few miles, or cross the finish line. It was only after the first quarter mile that I knew I'd finish. The weather was perfect, the road so much smoother than what I had trained on, and the pain of the last week disappeared, at least for the first 7 miles. I was too excited/stubborn to realize that the pain below my knee wasn't typical runners pain and I finished. It wasn't until 3 weeks later that the stress fracture was finally diagnosed. I'm not sure I would have run if I'd known about it but in hindsight it taught me a huge lesson. NEVER, EVER RUN IN FEAR. NEVER.

"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power
we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all
because we never pushed through the obstruction."
William James

After spending the next 5 weeks recuperating I started to run again, but I began running differently than I had before. I ran 13.1 miles on an injured leg. I accomplished my mission and finished much faster than I thought I would. Finishing in spite of my fucked up leg freed me from the ever looming ghost of failure. In recent weeks my mind has been pretty clear as I hit the road. I concentrate on my breathing, imagine myself running a marathon, a 50k, a 50 miler. I think about how peaceful it is out on that dirt road and how much I love the cold weather. What I don't think about is more important than what I do. I don't pass my time reliving the failure of my marriage. I don't pass my minutes punishing myself for wasted potential. I don't question every little passing discomfort. I don't even look at my watch other than to mark the beginning and end of my run. I find myself not having to use the mental tricks that I used to get through the months leading up to Philadelphia.

One of the most important things Philadelphia taught me was to not let the watch control my pace or dictate the way I feel about a run. When I was training I figured I wouldn't be completely embarrassed if I could run anything under 12 minute miles. I'd never run faster than an 11:30 mile training and was stunned when I ran 10:30/Mile and a 9:00 last mile in Philly. Now I know that there are people that walk faster than I run but hey, shut it, I'm old and broken. What's surprised me recently is that I've stopped thinking about whether I'm running too fast or too slow and I'm just running. I'm just running. So fucking simple and so fucking complicated. What I'm finding now that I'm more at peace is that I'm running 9:30 miles as my natural pace. No push/pull and no quick glances at the watch. Start watch. Run. Stop watch. Think less. Feel more. So fucking simple.

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