Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Forward Progress

It wasn't the most peaceful of outings.

Sure, there was the gurgling creek off to the side, the occasional rustle of leaves, the sound of birds, the whir of bugs. There was a brilliant blue sky, the layers of green surrounding me, the sound of feet on dirt. There was a hint of that lovely fall smell, with just a touch of crisp in the air, the damp soil and soggy leaves the morning after a night of rain.

I was paying so much attention to my new stopwatch, fumbling with the tiny buttons, making sure I stuck to the prescribed program de jour: eight minutes running, two minutes off, four reps.

I ran outside.

A few months ago, the trainers agreed it was time to run. So I hopped on a treadmill, ran for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of walking, and repeated that four times. I came home and iced my foot and started second guessing whether I should've had that surgery after all. I rested a few days, came back, and tried again. It was so incremental as to be frustrating -- like learning to drive stick after you already know how to drive standard. Moving, but not; feeling terrific followed by that creeping, nagging sensation that your heel is starting to burn. When you've run a marathon, getting maxed out at 30 seconds for a total of 4 minutes of movement on a stationary machine is brutal. Outside the window the kids were walking to school and every one of them seemed more mobile than I.

But I did it. And gradually worked my way up through their program -- 1 minute running. 2 minutes, up to 12 times. 4 minutes running with walking breaks. And when I hit eight minutes running, they said I could go outside.

I missed everyone out there on my route -- the other runners, the long-distance club from the college, the walkers, the bird watchers, the tourists, the dog walkers, the lone equestrian. I missed what I've dubbed "the men's walking group" -- a gaggle of men circa 55-70 who walk in a pack, jawing about sports. Last year, they used to all wear sports sweatshirts, and break their conversation to holler a cheery g'morning to me. Yesterday, with their T's, they resembled an Obama bloc canvassing for that elusive squirrel vote. "How ya doin!" "Beautiful Morning!" I could almost hear them say, as they looked at me somewhat inquisitively, "Where've ya been?

Or maybe that was me.

"Wassup." (always said more as a statement, than a question.)

"Beautiful woodpecker up there at 2 o'clock!"

"Don't mind him, he's friendly!"

[silent head nod, clearly wrapped up in their iMusic]

Almost exactly a year ago this week, in a mad effort to burn my pregnancy weight and rid myself of this sad, saggy reminder around my midsection and hindquarters, my foot collapsed. The plantar fascia which runs down the arch had begun to separate from the point where it attaches to the heel. Yesterday I ran four or so miles. I'm a bit stiff today -- stiff enough that I'm resting my heel completely, simply stretching, wearing my arch supports. Hopefully tomorrow morning I can try this timed segment once again. If I can do it twice without pain, I graduate to running continually with no walking. Just running. Letting my mind flit instead of monitoring my watch.


Here comes that serious-looking runner guy again -- the one with the compact body and the serious clothes and the serious sunglasses. We said our good-morning's at the first pass, but I never know what to say when I pass someone for the second time going in the other direction.

"Have a good one!" he said, raising his hand.

I hope he didn't see me spontaneously break out into an enormous shit-eating grin.

"Thanks! You too!"


Melissia said...

My husband just celebrated his 35th anniversary as a runner and has started his fall marathon training. He to has struggled with injuries but has managed to come back and still runs a sub 3 hour marathon. Your post reminds me of the joy that running brings him. I am so glad that you are back on the running path, he has always found it to be his healing place. I am pasting a link just in case you have an interest in his blog, he often thinks he is too big, to old and too bald to run which is so funny considering that he is considered one of Houston's elite runners. Silly man. http://nukerunner.blogspot.com/

sweetsalty kate said...

So great... so good for you, and not in the typical way you'd think.

G said...

YAY! So happy you are out there again, I understand how much it means to you. I will live vicariously through you for a while.

YAY Tash!

janis said...

Tash!! I will not lie.. I have been waiting for this post, champagne in hand... and now I am just wildly happy for you. so happy I wanna swim in a tub of champagne right now. Woot!!!!
You go, Tash. I know it has been long and hard, tears and frustration, but I bet it was worth it. This post just made my day. *hugs*

Sue said...

Progress can be a wonderful thing. So glad to hear it, Tash!

Antigone said...

God I miss that feeling. The happiest moments of my life have been on the road.

You're going to run a 5-k or the like, right? Maybe a van-load of bloggers from D.C. will drive up and form a cheering section, embarrassing you.

k@lakly said...

I'm not in DC but I'd be all over the idea of forming a cheering section for you in the marathon! Here's to that first uninterrupted run of freedom:)

Newt said...

Oh, how wonderful! I've been really missing my little jogs lately (no marathons for me), especially with the fall weather. I'm glad to think of you out there sweating in it! Enjoy!

loribeth said...

Good for you!! I am NOT a runner, but I understand how important it is to reclaim this part of yourself. Cheering you on from north of the border!!

Coggy said...

I'm so glad you have finally got to this point I totally get how much this means to you. I wish I loved running more. Enjoy the outdoor running! Perfect time of year for it.

Cara said...

Tash - my dad is a lifelong committed runner and I have watched him slow down as he approaches 70 years old. But, he's still out there, everytday.

I can't imagine how difficult it was for you to be told you couldn't do the thing that gave you such inner peace.

Yeah - for getting back out there!!! I'm so glad to be here for such a big day!

niobe said...

Yay! Now if you could just talk me nto getting to the gym a little more often.

Aunt Becky said...

Need to go back to the gym. Stat.

Me, obviously, not you.

Which Box said...

Congrats. I am so jealous of the joy you get from this. I wish there was a physical activity that did the same for me.

c. said...

That's fabulous, Tash. You did it. You're out there.

I know that any accomplishment - large or small - is a weighty reminder of what we don't have, but they are accomplishments all the same. They carry all the strength and effort a heavy heart can muster. So, then, I just have to say: Yay you Tash. Yay, you!

Irish Girl said...

I gotta get back out there myself ... reading this post I was picturing my own favorite running route on a crisp fall morning like today ... thanks for the motivation and good for you for making progress!

Kymberli said...

I've never been a runner -- my endurance sucks and my lungs wind up feeling like caustic balls of fire -- but I've always wanted to be one.

You're up and out again - dedicate a few of your strides to me. I can feel the endorphins already.

Julia said...

Rock on! It's obvious how happy your new freedom makes you, and seeing that makes me happy.

CLC said...

So glad you are back out there running. I think it will do wonders for you, emotionally that is.

Val said...

That's great - hope you are still doing well on the running routine.
Now, if I myself can get past my nagging R forefoot pain - finally got my new orthotics about 6 wks ago, may have to break down & go back to podiatrist?