Posted on | May 6, 2014 | 10 Comments
In late 2011, I herniated a disc in my low back. The pain was excruciating and I wound up getting an injection to relieve some of the inflammation. As 2012 crept on, my back felt better and in October I started to run again… something I’d loved before J was born.
I ran a half marathon in February of 2013 and I felt… unstoppable. Running gave me not just an adrenaline rush, but a feeling that I was beating the odds. There I was, a 3o-something year old woman with a bad back and I was making it happen. I was pounding out miles and it felt good … it felt really good. I loved tuning out the world, charging forward on a quest to beat my last time or run even one step farther than the day before.
And then this year, my back flared up again.
“No big deal,” I thought, “I’ll just get another injection and be good to go.”
Only that’s not really what happened.
This morning, I sat on a high table in front of my orthopedist and listened to him earnestly tell me that I had two options: I could keep running and all but ensure that I’d need back surgery in the future, or I could stop running and perhaps let my back heal itself the best it can.
I heard the words but they sort of swam around my head, not really sinking in until sometime mid-morning when I thought to myself: “I have to stop running” and felt tears well up in my eyes in a rush of fear and sadness. Sadness because it is giving up something I love. Fear because I believe that running saved me in the months and years after my divorce.
Fear because I have so fully embraced the notion that I am a runner, that I can’t imagine being anything less.
Fear because I have never had to make this type of decision… never had to admit to myself that I’m not as young as I used to be. That I’m not as young as I think I am.
Fear because if I can not run… if I’m not a runner… then who am I? How do I identify myself in the absence of something that became so much of my identity?
I feel suddenly old and abandoned by the body I live in. I feel as though I have to redefine, rediscover who I am now… who I can be without this thing that has really consumed me for the better part of two years. Running is what got me out of bed, what got me motivated to get in shape. Seeing the miles add up on my Nike + app, feeling the steady pound of my shoes against whatever surface I could find.
Being a runner was important to me. It made me feel important… feel like I could do and be anything in the world.
But now I am not a runner.
I am just me again. Average and unrewarded by the tick of a mile marker in my mind.