Richmond isn't going to run itself, so I'm shooting to run 26.2 miles on November 14, 2009.
Damn, it feels good to say that.
Today I got back on the road to try to meet that goal. I do so with a renewed spirit and a sense that patience can pay dividends.
As you know, I hurt my right knee on the last mile of my scheduled 16 mile run ten days ago. That forced me to take a break, during which I did not make any decisions. I didn't even really lament the loss of exercise. I just wanted to listen to my body and heal.
On Sunday, the pain in my joints and tendons had more or less faded, but would shoot through me if I put too much weight on my right leg. By Monday I felt fine, but still didn't know what to do. On Tuesday, I followed the advice of many people and went in to talk with Mark Lorenzoni, the owner of Ragged Mountain Running Shop and my coach in the Charlottesville Track Club's marathon training program. As per his instructions, I took in my program and my shoes.
Mark Lorenzoni is a very busy man, and I don't like to bother busy men. He was there chatting with his staff when I got there at about 5:00 on Tuesday afternoon. A clerk said he was really tired and wanted to go home, but asked if she could help. I started to tell the story.
Turns out, she's his daughter and she's dealt with injuries her whole running career. She started flexing my shoes, and told me they were shot. I'd only purchased them in late June, and I reckon I'd put about 280 miles on them. She had me do the routine of watching me jog in my shoes, then in my bare feet. Instantly, she knew what the problem was.
My right leg over-pronantes quite a bit. Pronating is a concept I've not yet quite figured out, but I know it needs to be corrected through arch support. This is why I'm happy to pay the big bucks for shoes. I trust the Lorenzonis with my feet. I'll eventually learn the details.
Mark came over. He looked shattered, exhausted. In the past week, he had helped run both the Ragged Mountain Cup and the Women's Four-Miler. He's really someone who gives a lot to his community, and I didn't want to take up too much of his time. But once he started talking to me, I knew he was really concerned with my training. He immediately took a pen to my program and set me up for the next two weeks. He said it was not too late to make Richmond, even with the week off. He assigned me three miles for today, three miles for tomorrow, and to shoot for 12 on Saturday.
Daunting, especially when I could barely walk the week before.
But, I immediately felt this feeling of well-being and happiness and joy. On my test runs for his daughter, I seemed fine, with no pain at all. With new shoes, I knew I'd get a little more protection. Expensive, yes, but well worth it given the power that running has had to help me this year. He also gave me a pair of inserts to try in my old shoes. I walked out feeling very good about myself and my choice. But more importantly:
I was going to run again.
So, this morning, I took a long lunch and headed home. I put my shoes on. I put my running shorts on. I stretched a little more than I had before. I warmed up by taking my dog for a quick walk. My body was tingling all over in anticipation. I fiddled with my watch. And then...
Off I went, very gently. One foot after the other. I aimed to have each foot fall land right in the middle of my foot. I just went at a nice little trot to test out that knee, to see if there was any pain. There was none, but I remained vigilant. I made it to the end of first tenth of a mile about 10 seconds slower than usual.
The day was warm, but not too hot. Slightly humid. I trotted along to the end of the downtown mall and back home, alert to the possibility of knee pain. Things felt a little stiff, but it wasn't too bad. I saw a lot of people I know, and felt like I had myself back again. I wish I could explain more clearly how positive I feel about myself because of exercise.
I really resisted going fast. I know I could have gone much faster, but I'm hoping I've learned a little more about pacing now. The next two weeks are not about speed. They're about recovery, and relearning form and discipline. The run was absolute bliss, and I was reminded of all the runs I've taken. How I've used the adrenaline to get me through dark times.
On my way out of the shop Tuesday afternoon, Mark Lorenzoni called me an athlete, and said that he really respected what I was doing. I've never been called that before, and didn't resist it. He told me that the race wasn't important, and to focus on the journey.
I've come such a long way in the past nine months since I began this chapter of my life, and there are so many more footfalls to come.