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Everybody Needs A Challenge, Take Two

March 19, 2011

Not running is not fun for a runner. Seven months of waiting for my Patellofemoral to shut up; seven months of self-pity; seven months of envying people who can run. It felt as if I was sitting on an airplane on a seven-month long nonstop flight, and all I wanted to do was to open a window or get out. But funny thing, once the plane has landed, I now think that running injuries could be good for a runner’s soul.

I joined the cult of physical therapy worshipers. Because according to Twitter, that’s what injured runners do: Go to physical therapy. It would be crazy to not get physical therapy. You can’t just not do it. Well, you could, if you had a clone. If I’d had a clone, she would have gone to physical therapy for seven months. And I would have spent time elsewhere, taking a photography class or learning more Spanish. We would have converged in the spring, my clone and I, and we would have been ready to start running again.

Time heals. It’s magic like that.

Injuries are an essential evolutionary nuisance for a runner, I am convinced. It keeps the fire alive. Think about it: Why did you decide to run your first marathon? Because you chatted with a guy from Connecticut in the kiddie pool at a Mexican resort, and he said, “Everybody needs a challenge.” And you were thinking, “Yup, makes sense.” So your first marathon was all about the finish. You were following a generic training program and someone else’s baseline data, thinking, “S**t, I don’t know if I can do this.” Then you did it, you ran a marathon, and you were thinking, “Big deal, I can run faster.” There — THERE! — was the birth of your next challenge. Now you wanted to run a marathon in personal record time, and you were thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this.” Then you set a new PR — what’s next? See, you have to have an injury to think about that.

It is fifty-three degrees outside and almost spring, with a touch of daylight saving time. I build up my mileage slowly, readying my legs and mindset for long runs in the park. My goal is endurance, not speed. I am not taking running for granted, I am starting over. Let me be fragile and powerful like the fresh coat of greens on the trees.

Running injuries produce new challenges, they provide for the continuation of the species of challenges. I am up for my next one this year: To run a marathon that has hills.

I don’t know if I can do this.

Art: Rubik’s Lamp, by Eric Pautz, available under Attribution-Noncommercial license

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