It’s been two months and 17 days since I last ran. Seventy days have passed since my hip surgery and I’ve had 17 physical therapy appointments since May 7th. Half of my birthday was spent in the hospital and the other half was spent on my couch. I have felt helpless, unable to do basic things such as shave my legs or tie my shoes. I have spent nights in pain, stuck on my back as my leg throbbed persistently. I’ve had to rely on others to help me up stairs and to bring me food. Small accomplishments have become huge victories and I don’t think I ever really stopped to internalize all of it until today, the day I ran again.
I have been looking forward to this day for a long time. Part of me has been looking forward to this day with excitement and the other part of me has been looking forward to it with fear. How bad would the pain be? Would I even be able to run? Would I fall and break my bone again? Or would it be way better than I ever expected? Would the pain disappear and the running return to me as if it had never left me? I had no idea but I did know, as I got ready for my PT appointment, I had better bring my running shoes.
When I walked out the door this morning, I thought to myself, maybe I should wait another week. Maybe the end of July would be safer and my hip would be more ready for the challenge.. Part of me was actually afraid to even try running. Shawn, my PT, and I had never actually discussed me running today. I just knew this week marked 3 weeks since my last doctor’s appointment and when he said I could try running again in three weeks. Shawn knew this and I’m glad I showed up prepared to run.
As I was warming up on the elliptical, Shawn walked by with a big grin on his face. “Tracie, we’re going to jog today!”
“Shit,” I told myself. “You can’t avoid it now. Just be ok with whatever happens.”
The majority of my PT session was spent doing leg strengthening. Walking lunges with weights, squats, single leg dead lifts, side lunges, etc. According to Shawn, my form and range of motion was great so I was ready. He said he couldn’t wait to see my face glow. I was certain it would be wincing in pain.
I hesitated to get on the treadmill. As crazy as it sounds, I knew this moment marked a new low for me. Up until this point, recovery has gone great. Everything has been smooth sailing for me but once I stepped on that treadmill, reality would set it. I was going to be starting from ground zero and there would be a long road ahead of me.
For some reason, I had in my mind that I would only be running for a few minutes. Test my hip out, see how it felt sort of jog. Shawn had a different idea. I got on the treadmill and he said he was setting the timer for 10 minutes. 10 freakin minutes!!! I was to run at whatever pace felt comfortable but it had to be fast enough to get that pounding motion of running. Sharp pain was bad but dull aches were okay. If at any point, I felt a sharp pain, I was to stop immediately.
Those first few steps felt actually very easy. Nothing hurt and it was like running had never left me. Then, at a pace of 4.6 mph on the treadmill, I felt exactly what I expected. Not a sharp pain but the dull ache of a screw in my hip and a rod in my leg. Some steps would be easier and some steps would be harder. I fidgeted with my form, focused on relaxation, anything that would help. But the reality was this was my new normal and I needed to accept it. Shawn had mentioned that my ability to run would also be attributed to my ability to tolerate pain. Again, not sharp pain but a pain that comes with a foreign object inside the body. I was trying to tolerate the pain as best I could.
After 8 minutes, Shawn came by and said he would save me from the 2 remaining minutes. I was relieved. According to the screen on on the treadmill, I ran .6 miles in 8 minutes. Shawn said I was cleared to start running again and although I held my emotions back inside the doctor’s office, I couldn’t help it when I got to my car.
I don’t know why I cried. Was it because I was so happy to run? Was it because I could only manage .6 miles at a 13:00 mph pace? I don’t know. And then I started thinking about the last two months. How much I had desperately been clinging to other forms of exercise, when all I really ever wanted to do was run again. How I had begrudgingly spent my mornings inside on an elliptical, swimming laps in a pool, or staring at a wall as I biked to nowhere. How I’ve tried so hard to not lose my aerobic capacity. As I sat in my car, feeling both proud and sad at the fact I just ran .6 miles, I realized just how much I want to run. It’s the place where I feel most like myself and it’s the place where I feel most present. It’s the place where I feel most alive and as tired as running can make me, it gives me the energy to do just about anything. Every mile brings a sense of accomplishment that spinning and the elliptical never will. The more I thought about these things, the more emotional I became. I just want to run.
A little over two months ago, I was told I wouldn’t run again for 6 months to a year. At the time, I was okay with it because I just wanted my hip to stop hurting. Now I know that I’m not okay with that. Even if I start out with half mile jogs, I realize it’s what I must do in order to get to where I want to be. I look forward to those mornings when I can watch the sun rise as I run along my favorite running routes. I don’t know when that will be exactly but today was the first big step to getting there.
Happy Trails and Happy Running,