This past Monday, I fell and injured my back in a new spot. My previous, original injury (a sacral stress reaction) was mostly healed. I was able to walk distances without pain and to work (as a waitress) on my feet for hours at a time without limping. I had deemed my recovery a success and was looking forward to my final doctor’s visit and a clearance to return to running.
And then my cat decided to wake me up by heaving (a precursor to throwing up) directly over a library book. Not wanting to be stuck with yet another library fine (coffee and books do not mix), I scooped her up with the intention of depositing her in the bathroom, where she could spew at leisure without damaging anything. As I scurried the three feet from bed to bath, she leaped from my arms, and vomited. Directly beneath the spot where I then placed my heel. The result: me crashing bum-first onto unforgiving tile, cat vomit smearing across my back.
The pain was staggering. I could not stand up unassisted.
I want to be optimistic that I will heal in time for my doctor’s appointment just over a week from now, but I do not think that is realistic. Even without my stress reaction, I couldn’t run today. I can’t sit too long, or sit on the floor at all. Bending over hurts, as does laying on my back in bed. Walking hurts after too long. I tried a hop test yesterday, just to check, tepidly bouncing on one foot. Bad idea. The residual pain lasted several hours.
This break has forced me to come to terms with my relationship to running. Unlike some of my former college teammates, I will not have a professional or semi-professional athletic career. I will probably not qualify effortlessly for the Boston Marathon again. Running will no longer comprise a large proportion of my identity. I know I am restoring balance, but it feels like I am losing part of my self. I am still going through mourning. Right now, it feels as if I will never move past this stage. A permanent sense of loss, like saying goodbye to a lover too early.
I feel silly connecting so deeply with a sport, but running has been the through line of my life. Without running, I would not be who I am today. I needed running for so many years and it was mostly good to me. Giving up my passion is heart wrenching.
Nothing will ever replace the lightness, the wholeness, the me-ness I feel while running.
This post doesn’t have a good ending, because the problem remains unresolved. I do not know how I will permanently reconcile this loss. I will keep trying, however, until something feels right.