Still Running Long

running until i can't

Still Running Long

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Still Running Long is aspirational.

Growing up, I loved to run, through the back field with one of our dogs, around in circles through the first floor of our house, or with my Dad wherever he would go. I got involved in organized sports when I was ten, playing soccer and baseball. For a long time, most of my running was on the soccer field, and then on the rugby field in college. I picked up my first injuries, too, on those fields.

Having left organized sports behind in my early twenties, I shared an apartment with a good friend of mine from college. Terry was one of those effortless runners who could sit on a couch for three months, then decide he was going to go out for a ten-miler, and pull it off without complaint.

I decided to follow Terry’s example, if not his workout schedule, and began running. It certainly wasn’t effortless at first, but I kept going. It was my sixth or seventh run time out when, for the first time, I felt like I could just keep going. I had struggled to reach twenty or twenty-five minutes. That afternoon, I reached thirty-five, then forty, then forty-five minutes, and had no desire to stop. I was running long.

Fast forward a few years and I was running fifty and sixty miles each week, soaking up long weekend group runs and weekday doubles. I had worked through a few minor injuries to get there, and I was never quite happy with my pace, but half-marathon ambitions became marathon ambitions. Then Boston in 1998.

That’s when I started to get hurt. It started with knee pain, and running in the years after Boston was sporadic. I always felt like I was babying my schedule or my knees. Motion control shoes, physical therapy and custom orthotics followed (along with a wedding and babies), but they couldn’t hold off lateral release surgery on my right knee in 2003. That surgery doesn’t have an easy recovery, but I worked my way back up to doing a few races here and there. I largely let go of the ambition to run a marathon again. I didn’t want to press my luck.

In the fall of 2009, I knew something didn’t feel right as I was training for the BAA half-marathon. But like runners do, I kept going, despite the soreness in my lower back and hip. I ran a decent race – and then waited eighteen months for surgery to repair an impingement and torn labrum in my right hip.

If I was skittish about pushing my limits before, I became even more so. My orthopedist told me that I should keep my sights on shorter distances and altogether less running, and that maybe, maybe if I were lucky, a half-marathon could be within my reach. But nothing longer. I added more cross training, and trained for a triathlon with my wife, even though I was sure cycling had been part of the issue for my hip.

All the while, my worry-free running days were behind me. Those days of going out and getting lost. The days of having a body underneath me that I knew would carry me where I wanted to go. A body that could still run long.

Less than a year ago, I stopped running altogether when my body started to fail me in other ways. For a while, I worried more about my mortality than my mileage.

Then I changed my diet and, somehow and almost suddenly, changed my view about my running. I ran really short. The next day, I ran really short again. And again. I stopped counting the days between runs, stopped worrying if it was too many runs. I slowed down and gave my body a chance to really feel the run. And I just ran. Those really short runs got a little bit longer, and a little bit longer.

All of the sudden, one week from my forty-second birthday, I feel good. I am scared to death to say it out loud. It feels almost like I am asking to get hurt. But I feel good.

And I want to run long.

Those really short runs are already pushing a couple of hours long. I suppose that’s pretty long already, and part of me feels like I should be happy with that. Don’t be greedy.

But I want to run really long.

And so this blog emerges as a chronicle of my effort to run an ultra-marathon before my forty-third birthday. I’ve been thinking this for a few weeks, but haven’t given voice to it until now (I just told my wife at lunch…). Exactly how long, exactly where and when, I am not sure. But I want to be out there one morning, still running long.

Author: todd

Husband, father, runner & Zen student... Currently blogging about about running at Still Running Long. Also writing about fatherhood and Zen at bussokuseki.wordpress.com.

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