POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 14, 2010
"I always loved running; it was something you could do under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." -- Jesse Owens, 1936 Olympian
After a six-week hiatus from running, I've missed the sense of autonomy and power Owens ascribes to running. Scott and I have been, as of late, prisoners to an oddly copious spate of ailments. Did we unknowingly break a mirror, walk under a ladder and step on a crack all at once? We've been dealing with a knee injury, vertigo, carpal tunnel and a pinched nerve, to name a few, and are just now getting back in the saddle.
Lacing up for the first time after the long, involuntary break made us pensive and tetchy. Above all, I think, we're worried our marathon dreams are jogging out the door without us. We walked wordlessly in a cold drizzle toward our starting point, which is usually at the top of a short but steep hill. The chill of the rain drove me to run sooner than usual. We started running, pushing ourselves uphill in an effort to get warm.
Uphill -- that's how it's going to be until we get our stride back. Six weeks ago we were running 20 to 25 miles a week (six miles for a weekday run, 12 on Sundays). Today we managed to run 2 1/2 and walk another two. The courage of our lungs? Scant. The strength of our feet? Absent. Today, running felt awful ... and yet, it felt great to be on our feet again. We fought the wind, and we definitely went as slow as we wanted.
We didn't sign up to walk the marathon, but walking has become a very real possibility for us. There are days it seems that even walking to the finish line without breaking something or giving in to the temptation to call a cab would be a stunning accomplishment. Many amazing people walk the Honolulu Marathon year after year, and I would be proud to walk in their esteemed company. But I'm not yet ready to put aside the dream of running it.
Climbing back up the mileage hill is not going to be easy. As seasoned runners regularly point out to me, running itself never gets easier. You can get better at it, and you can begin to enjoy it more, but it's never effortless, nor would you want it to be.
While we find ourselves back where we were, fitness-wise, 10 months ago, we've gotten the hardest part out of the way. We went for that first run. Yes, we got rained on and, yes, we were outpaced by senior citizens taking leisurely early evening strolls. But we laced up and went out, and while it won't win us any medals, showing up was half the battle.
As the great Jesse Owens also said: "The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself -- the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us -- that's where it's at."