Telling the truth.

How funny.  I never have writer’s block.  But I’ve started this post three different ways, and erased all of them.  I keep starting and stopping, staring at the blank screen, trying to think of the right way to put this.

Six years ago I returned to Melbourne with our young family.  The kids were 3 and 4 then, and I knew, even back then, something wasn’t quite right.  It has taken those six years to finally get a diagnosis of what the problem is with one of my children.  I won’t share the label/diagnosis here, or the gender of that child, because that is private and it is not mine to share.

What I will share is the impact those six long years has had on me.  Because it’s the truth, and not telling the truth is making me leave big, vacant holes in my stories, holes that make me feel inauthentic, and holes that need to be filled.

The first few years back in Australia, I was very near the edge.  I couldn’t see a way out, a way forward.  Each morning, I woke up to blackness and despair.  Was it post-natal depression?  Post-traumatic stress?  I don’t know.  It was probably both.  My husband had finished work and had been diagnosed with a spinal tumor.  The surgery left him with a permanent limp, and a tendency to fall over.  Instead of working, I was home with my kids for the first time.  So was he.  We’d had two domestic helpers in Hong Kong; now it was the two of us, and I didn’t know how to do this role.

One of my children was wonderful, loving, smart, all the things a parent could want.  The other, who I tried desperately to love, would greet me with, well, would greet me with violence.  They had no words.  They were severely speech-delayed.  But they did have fists and feet, and they used them on me; I was the punching bag, and I had nowhere to run because I was Mom and alone in this foreign country.  My parents had died; I was born in New York but had left there fifteen years ago; our friends in our small town in Australia were new, and I couldn’t share the truth with them.  It was me and my husband facing this battle, and though he did his best to help, he couldn’t fix what was wrong.  I was the target for the aggression, and I couldn’t explain how bad it made me feel.  I felt I’d done something wrong as a parent, and that I deserved it.  On the darkest days, I’d hold onto the fence of the level crossing as a train went by, afraid of myself, afraid I’d step in front of it if I let go of the fence.

I took my child to various doctors but was told the same things I already knew: speech delays; behavioral difficulties; an inability to express emotion or to empathize.  A child psychologist was suggested but they were an hour’s drive away, and my child screamed during every car ride, and took off their seat belt.  Nothing could get them to put it back on.  It was impossible.  I went on; we went on.

It took me two years but I found a caring psychologist who supported me, who helped build me back up.  She was perplexed by the behaviors I described in my child and saw how difficult my life had become.  She let me cry, and told me I was courageous.  She stood by me, and listened.  But she was not a child psychologist, so a piece of the puzzle was missing.

One day, the Salomon Trail Series was announced.  I missed trail running deep in my soul.  It had been my passion while living in Hong Kong, and suddenly there seemed a light here in Melbourne, a hope.  I began to run towards it.

Since then, I’ve kept running.  Through three Salomon Trail Series, a few half-marathons, adventure races, a marathon, and finally the North Face 50km Ultramarathon last year.   Each step, each trail run, has brought me peace in the face of the disaster that much of the rest of my life, periodically, seems to become.  The strength I found through running helped me finally seek the support of a child psychologist, and find some answers.

I can’t lie.  Some days with my child are just so hard.  I get told “I hate you”; I get spit at; I get rocks thrown at me when we go for family walks; the child whispers things in my ear so my husband can’t hear and scold her, whispers horrible scalding words that make my eyes fill with tears.  We didn’t travel for five years because we were too afraid our child would sneak out of a hotel room and disappear.  We have to hide things in our home because boundaries are meaningless and unenforceable.

Some days, I want to run away and I study airplane flight schedules.  During school holidays, I take an extra hour in bed to shorten the day.  I look in the mirror and I wonder where the self I worked so hard to create has gone.  The PhD in psychology, the two books I’ve published, the classes and seminars and radio shows I’ve done.  I long to see joy in my eyes, for my husband and I to stop snapping at each other because we’re both under such stress.

I hold on.  I try to notice flowers and autumn leaves.  I pet my cats and take our dog for walks.

I run.  Sometimes I’ve run too far and injured myself, and my last bastion of support and strength has crumbled beneath me and I have to hold on by my fingernails to survive.  I am teaching myself to play piano because I find I can lose myself in the music and this also acts as a salve.

The dark days have become less regular, but they are no less dark when they do occur.  School holidays brings on a lot of them, because there is a lot more time for conflict to occur. I go quiet then on my blog, because the truth is hard to share.

I study the label that has been applied to my child by several psychologists now and see some truth in it, but I know that people change and that this label may not fit in the future, and I don’t want to stick my child with it forever because then that child may feel they have to live up to it somehow.  I keep seeking help for us, through Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, Psychologists, through aid at school.

I am not alone in this battle.  Hundreds of parents face it.  This I know.  I hope by sharing my truth of how hard it has been, I help one of you.  I get knocked down.  Regularly.  But I’m going to keep right on getting back up.

Trail running is one place I go to salve my wounds, to fill my soul, to howl the tears that need to be howled.  Sometimes I go quiet.  Please know that it is hardest to write when times are most dark.  I am still here, fighting the good fight, and I will write for you again.  I will tell you stories of joy and running, of battling, of courage in the face of great disasters.

And I will tell you the truth.

 

A heartwarming post of great joy.

I woke up for the fourth time on that long night, having had a different version of the same dream I’d had the other three times.  She had returned, unharmed, and my family was celebrating with tears of joy.  Was it real this time?  Had she really returned?  I glanced over at my sleeping husband, and realised, yet again, that it had just been a dream.  The knowledge was shattering.

This had happened before, and I knew that if she had not appeared by morning, the chances were very slim that she would reappear at all.  Wasn’t that just what had happened with Lucky?  He’d gone out at dusk, and had never been seen again.  I tried to bring my mind back to the present.  This would turn out differently.  It had to turn out differently.

The next morning, my husband went downstairs first.  I asked him to come straight back and tell me if she’d returned.  I couldn’t bear to see the empty porch.  He didn’t come.  Instead, my young daughter appeared.

“Is she back?”

“No.  Are you going to cry?”

“Yes, I think I am.  See you after showers.”

The morning was bleak.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  The kids were chatty and oblivious, for the most part.  I hid in the pantry and Googled who to contact.  And I listened to the growling of the dog next door.  Could he have her pinned and injured in there?

We got the kids off to school, I called the local council, dead inside, already knowing what they’d say.  No, she’d not been turned in.  Call this other number.  No and no and no.  And a “we don’t open until ten, please call back then.”  I coached a client, leaving the pain alone for almost a full hour, though every sound on the porch outside my office made me jump up and stare out the window.

Once I was done coaching, my husband I wandered the neighborhood, calling, calling, Minnniii,  Minnniii, looking into bushes, afraid of seeing the battered remains of her on nature strips, listening for cries that would alert us to where she was.  Just like when Lucky disappeared, the streets were empty.  The absence of her was a physical thing.  It filled all the space around me, pressed me heavily onto the concrete.  We’d been playing around with the idea of adopting a dog, full of hope for this new year.  Now it seemed so pointless and futile.  Everything seemed that way.

We went to lunch and couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t meet each others eyes.  Racing home afterwards, the streets and sidewalks were still achingly empty.  No one came to greet us in our garden, no small creature stood on hind paws to kiss our hands.  I went to the back garden and called and called, in a softer, less hopeful voice.  The time had passed.  She was truly gone.

I sat staring at my computer screen, not doing anything, called a few more shelters and cried.

And then…

Mew.

It was a small cry.

Mew, again.

I leapt to my feet.  Standing there, unbelievably standing there, in all her small, black-and-white beautiful glory was our baby cat.  She had come home!  Against all odds, she had come home.

And the world is suddenly full of color again, and there is a point and a rhythm to the universe and everything is going to be okay.

All because a small black-and-white cat found her way home.

Photo: She has returned, oh happy day! :)

No running eight days later.

How do I explain to a non-runner what it is like to be unable to run for eight days?

Runners get it.  They know being unable to run is like having your soul sucked right out of your body.  You look at every single person running – whether they are kids running across a playground, people running for a bus, or actual runners just out running – and you envy them all.  And you kind of hate them too.

You talk obsessively about your injury and annoy everyone around you.  “Really?  Is it still hurting?  You mentioned it just ten minutes ago.  That’s surprising.”

You examine that injury a hundred times a day – is it looking better?  Less swollen?  Can it take more weight?  Could you possibly do a lunge or hop in place?  What about stairs – do stairs still hurt?  They hurt less on the up so you get a surge of hope, but then when you go down again, you know you are still hurt.

And then there’s googling the injury – I’ve googled the heck out of this one – time-consuming and depressing time poorly spent.

If you are me, you resist rest like most would resist – oh, I don’t know – like most would resist major surgery.  Rest stinks.  There are trails to be run and nature to breathe in.  There are races that are slipping away with each passing day.  And without the blood coursing through me when I run at speed, I’m only half alive.  And it’s not the good half either.

Try telling all this to a non-runner.  They say things like, eight days, oh, that’s nothing.

After visiting a masseuse on day 3, who was nice but didn’t help, on day 4, I finally called a physiotherapist.  This was after three days of actual rest – no exercise, meaning no running, no gym, no nothing.  Okay, so I was spotted on my mountain bike around town, but surely that didn’t count?

Anyway, the physio, Tim, was kind.  When he asked what category he should put the injury under, I said, “How about stupidity?  Do you have that on your list?”  He laughed.  Training too soon after a marathon, in the quest of an ultramarathon surely fit under stupidity.   But he said, “No, you were just testing your boundaries.  And you found some.”  And that was so kind, it nearly made me cry.  Jumper’s knee, he said, perhaps, and something wrong with the fat pad in the knee (I never knew there was one, go figure!).

He offered to tape my knee, to which I quickly replied no.  So he did some ultrasound instead.  But five days later, after cancelling all exercise including BodyPump, when the pain and swelling, which by rights should be well and truly gone, when it still hadn’t gone, I accepted the tape.  Now my knee won’t really bend, but it doesn’t hurt to walk down stairs, and I think I’ll be able to teach BodyPump this week.  Running is still elusive.  Three more days, perhaps.

What I have learned (again) is this.  Running is an essential drug.  And not knowing when I can have it again has made me edgy, irritable, or, in my son’s terms “aggro”.  I do okay with injuries when I know their pathology, their general course, when they’ll get better – but this unknown swollen knee?

One day, I’ll be looking back on this injury as just another injury that has taught me a little more about this miraculous body of mine.  I’ll understand it and know how to fix it.  Just like ITB and achilles pain, and all the other hundreds of injuries I’ve learned about.  But right now…

To tell you the truth…being injured colors every single moment.  It hits straight at a core part of my identity, and shakes it like a big, angry bear.  It makes all the exciting goals I’ve set recede into the distance, like ships that I desperately wanted to board sailing away without me.  It gives me nightmares – like the one I had last week, where I was walking on this suspension bridge because the traffic was stuck.  I was looking for what was wrong, and had left my car with my family in it a few hundred meters back.  I was standing alone on this bridge, high above a huge drop. Then this man, out of nowhere – it scares me to even write it – he grabbed me, picked me up by my legs, lifted me high in the air, and threw me over the edge.

I feel sick thinking about it even now.  I woke up before I landed, as you always do.  But that plummeting feeling remains with me, that sense that things are over before they should be, that I’m not in control of what is wrong.

That’s what not being able to run means to a runner.  Every single day.

Injury! Or how not to train just after a marathon…

I’ve been pacing my home for the last two hours (can it be only two hours!).  I’ve done the laundry (three loads), swept up in the garden, weeded, rang to book a massage, contemplated a haircut, and googled (a lot) about kneecaps -swollen, hot-to-the-touch kneecaps.

Injury.  That’s what it means.  No running on this beautiful blue sky sunny Melbourne morning.  Denial and despair; exercise options; pain relieving options.  I have not found acceptance yet or done that really dreadful thing: rest.

Marysville Marathon was ten days ago.  And Two Bays 56k is about six weeks away.  So, with two big runs within eight weeks of one another, I didn’t allow long enough for recovery.  Duh.  After Sunday’s marathon, I took off Monday and Tuesday completely, feeling virtuous and wise.  But Wednesday came and I taught my BodyPump class, and taught again Thursday morning, following by an easy 5k run.  Friday is what broke me – 10k on my favorite trail, running light and easy and kind of fast.  Stretching afterwards, I was surprised when it hurt to kneel to stretch – that was odd.  I tried to remember if I bumped my knee, but I hadn’t.

When Saturday came around, the right knee was distinctly swollen.  But the kids were home from school, so there wasn’t much time to focus on such things.  Surely it would be fine with two days rest.  Sunday night, I took a couple of anti-inflammatories, just in case, and it felt better.

And here’s where stupid won out over wise. Monday morning, while my husband took the kids to school, I sat writing in my journal for ten minutes before going to the gym.  “I will not run today,” I wrote.  “That would be stupid.  My knee needs to rest and I’ll only make it worse.”  I was very firm and wise, like an intelligent woman who knew how to take care of herself.

Except when I got to the gym, somehow I found myself on the treadmill for my usual 5k prior to weight training.  I rationalised that by keeping the pace slower than usual, and by stopping at the first hint of pain, all would be well.  And that I had to get my mileage up to train for Two Bays.  And that perhaps the joint would, well, lubricate itself, and feel better afterwards.  And there was this guy at the gym who told me two years ago I’d have to give up running, like he did, and I saw him just as I was choosing between cross-trainer and treadmill.  Treadmill it was.

Idiot.  Of course, the painkillers were still working at that stage, so I happily glided along, lip-singing to Bon Jovi on my iPod.  I did my weights.  All was fine.

But would you believe it (of course, you knew this would happen)?  It hurt later, and swelled up again.  If I could bottle some of my own stupidity…

No good beating myself up, I know.  As a runner, I like to think I am immortal, that by going minimal, I have fixed every possible physical ailment and I can run forever as long as I like.

Somewhat true.

But not when I go beyond the limit.  I guess that’s the only way to know where the limit lies, to step beyond.   So I am not running today.  Or for the next three days.  If it’s not better by then, I’m just going to have to hop, because my house will be so clean and the mail all organised and the Christmas presents wrapped – what am I going to do with myself after that?

By the way, my self-diagnosis is suprapatellar bursitis.  Caused by too much stupidity.  Hopefully, I’ll learn my lesson this time.  Sigh.

Crisis of confidence: of marathon training and life

Six days until my first marathon.  I’m tapering, and feeling all the usual gunk that comes with this useful part of training.  Slow, lethargic, lazy.  I keep waiting for the burst of energy that says this is working, but my energetic bursts are being consistently used up by family and work stress.  So I’m just going to have to trust in the process, and trust in the training I’ve done.

Of course, having dozens of Garmin files to explore and obsess over doesn’t help.  I’ve been comparing elevation gains, height of hills from sea level, length of hills I’ve done in training versus those on the actual course.

My gear is ready.  My body is ready.  My mind?  Well, my mind is never really ready until I’m in the middle of a race and have nowhere to go but forward.  Such is the lot of those of us who obsess over every single detail of training and race preparation.  I’d love to be one of the relaxed few who just come along for the views and to take photos.

Six days and counting down.  Time for  5, 10, and 5k runs to finish off my training plan.  For some short running and nice recovery.

——————————————————————————————————————–

I didn’t post this on the day I first wrote, as I was experiencing a crisis of confidence, and wasn’t ready to tell you the truth.  A few runs later (rainy runs into a strong headwind, carrying my newly repaired Hydrapak), and I’d love to say I’m fine now.

In truth,  I’m not.  I’m poring over the newly released details of race map transition areas, trying to remember which way our course goes compared to the other three race distances starting the same day.  And I’m trying to summit some more personal hills.

My seven-year-old is experiencing difficulties at school, and I am her safe battering ram when she returns home.  It hurts, all the way down to my soul.  But I was coping okay.

Then last week a BodyPump participant offloaded some really heavy stuff on me – a comment I had made in jest was the straw that broke her camel’s back, and I got in the direction of her personal lava-flow.  I felt like a kid who had been caught doing something naughty, as she raged and raged at me at the end of my class, as the other participants sheepishly snuck out the door.  My apology went unheard, and her wrath untouched.  With a sinking heart, I knew what was coming, because this is what happens.

Both things – my daughter’s stress, and this grown-up’s explosion – threw me.  I recognised that these things were not about me, but were about the other people going through difficult times.  In my head, at least, I recognised that.  That wiser part of me was nodding quietly, saying, “This is their stuff, not yours.”

The less wise part of me – who I know well, and see creeping up on me with a feeling of despair – was less kind.  It blasted me with self-criticism and doubt, with that hide-under-the-bed-and-quit-all-my-jobs kind of advice that does no good to anyone.  My roots were (and are still) shaken.  I’ve had some sleepless nights wondering what I could do differently, tearing apart my faults, and judging myself way too harshly.  Thank God for the likes of Bon Jovi at such times, reminding me that I am not the first to feel this way, that I am not alone.  Thank God for the wise part of me that sits quietly nearby through all the turmoil, and reminds me I’ve survived much worse, that this too shall pass.

Long-distance trail running, alone with my thoughts and a concrete objective is the perfect antidote.  Except I’ve been tapering, so even that avenue has been closed for a couple of weeks.  Which is why I understood so well a recent trail runner’s message on why he runs so far.  He said something like, “Trail running is a drip-feed to my soul.”  Yup, I get that.  Because sometimes I long for what is soulful and simple and concrete, to escape from the complexities of human beings.

Shaken, but not broken – that is how I’m standing today.  Where all of us stand sometimes.  Making mistakes, and picking myself back up again, and trying my darndest to learn.  It makes running a marathon seem easy by comparison.

Here’s what I’m holding onto – that the people of Marysville have risen from the ashes of the 2009 bushfires.  And that I’m going to do just the same in the face my own personal challenges.  I need a good dose of trails to lift me back up, the smell of eucalypts and the feel of dirt under my feet.  Come Sunday in my first real marathon, I’m going to focus on simply feeling alive to every single footfall, to the simplicity that running can bring, to the soulfulness that will enable me to face life’s many challenges.

Because that wise self knows that I will find my stability and peace of mind again, through a long, steady run in the woods.

Life’s a roller coaster – running eases the drops.

Two weeks and one day ago, I sprained my ankle. I have spent the time since in full rehab mode, first resting, then stretching, then strengthening. It helped to have a race goal to focus on – the Salomon Trail Series Silvan 21k Trail Race on 25 August.

Great Joy at Silvan Reservoir Race

Great Joy at last year’s Silvan Reservoir Race

Today, I managed to run for twenty minutes on the treadmill, pain-free. I ran in my monster feet (Vibram Five Fingers), and was conscious of each step. So conscious in fact, that I changed treadmills three times before I settled (like Goldilocks – this one is too angly; this one has a toe-catching hole in the belt; this one is Just Right). I wondered what the other people in the gym thought of me (nothing – no one in a gym notices much except themselves).

So I began. I put the treadmill on 5 km/hour, then jumped it to 8, 9, 10. Ten was as far as I got on Friday before the ache began in my ankle, and I was forced to walk again. Today, it didn’t ache. I pushed up .2 every minute, until I hit 11. Eleven is my usual recovery pace when I do interval training – I was thrilled to be there again. I held it at 11 for a minute, then cautiously, testing, pushed it up to 11.2, stayed there for 2 minutes, then 11.4. Ah, delight; it did not hurt. Bon Jovi, my running partner of many a treadmill session, was with me, an old friend, singing all my favorites, lifting my feet for me. I was cautious though, acutely aware that a mis-step would be deadly. When I hit twenty minutes, I noticed I’d also covered 3.45 km, so of course, had to keep going until I hit 3.5. Because I am ready to start adding up the km’s again.

Did it feel good? It felt scary. Knowing what running means to me (freedom; power; the opposite of depression), I was afraid to hurt myself by doing too much too soon. It is a fine line between recovery and re-injury. Thankfully, I did not cross it today. The stability work I’ve been doing (eccentric Achilles work; standing on a dura-disk on one foot with my eyes closed; ballet-toe walking back-and-forth across my office) has been paying off.

You might rightfully ask, why all this focus on running? In the two weeks I have been unable to run, I have found I can be peaceful without it, but I think this peace is mainly because I still have a goal – recovery.  And peaceful is one thing; inspired, elated, joyful, well, that’s entirely different. I only get there through fast runs on solitary trails, and God, I have missed it.

In the meantime, I have used the extra time to get a new host for my website, to finally get my PayPal system working, and to figure out how to put photos of my books and a way for people to buy them on my blog (because my website designer told me he didn’t know I had written any books, and that the header on my blog looked just like a pretty picture – duh, that should have occurred to me). The thing is, I am against the hard-sell, the “buy now, last in stock” stuff. I don’t want to hit people over the head with the fact that I’ve written a couple of books, though it would be nice to sell some. My goal is to inspire, through my writing, through my coaching, through media work when it comes my way.

And anyway, last week, I was nearly frightened into silence by a mean-spirited post on Facebook about how narcissistic everyone is, how much of what we write is of little interest to anyone but ourselves. What an effective way to silence voices. It made me pause; made me quiet for a day or so.  I won’t reprint the post here; I don’t want to give it more airspace. Because I don’t want to contribute to silencing a single voice.  Here’s what I thought later.  The people who climb Mount Everest, who cross the ocean in a one-person boat, who trek across the desert for charity – they are inspiring, for sure.  But sometimes these things are so out of reach to the average person, it doesn’t inspire them, they just think of the others as superhuman, and turn the page, and don’t do anything themselves.  To read about a single dad’s first attempt at a 10k; a person overcoming the challenge that to most would seem rather un-extraordinary, but to that person is an Everest. That is what inspires me.  So please keep writing – we need to know that normal people can do things beyond their own comfort zones, so we will too.

I have yet to decide if I’ll make it to my race goal in thirteen days time.  In some ways, it seems dumb to attempt it.  But I won’t make that call yet.  Because many things I have done in the last ten years have seemed out of reach, until I went for them.  Here’s the race profile – it looks similar but easier than my usual weekly 21k, but I’ve not been out there for a month.

This year’s elevation profile for Silvan.

In the meantime, I am aiming for my first twenty km week this week, after two weeks of notching up 0 and 3 kms.  Little steps; baby steps.  Soon, I will be running.  And the lows on the roller coaster of life won’t seem so low then.

And the highs?  On the highs I can see forever.

seeing forever

seeing forever (Photo credit: DanielJames)

“One day you might not be able to run,” she said…

“What will you do then?”

She sat back and eyed me.  I shifted in my seat.  It was as if she were prophesying disaster.

Last Sunday, her prophecy came true.  I sprained my right ankle during a routine training run with my son.  I’ve already told you about the sprain in last week’s post (see the link below if you missed it), but here comes the surprise.

For the first time in my life, when unable to exercise, I was calm.  Though other runners suggested swimming as an alternative, I knew it would just delay healing; doing anything involving my ankle would delay healing.

And yet I was calm.  Sedentary and calm.  Unbelievable!  I have been trying to put my finger on why, and I believe that the answer lies in a mental shift that happened without me even really noticing.

Once upon a time, like many women, I exercised for body shape.  I pursued that elusive idea of feminine perfection for mind-numbing lengths of time, on Stairmasters, treadmills, rowing machines, even those strange rollerblading machines from the early ’90s.  I lifted weights three times a week, three sets of 12 repetitions on every single machine I could find.  It took hours.  When I couldn’t exercise back then, it was a BIG deal.  I would do all sorts of crazy stuff to fit in my workouts, from swimming with pull-buoys with a seriously sprained ankle, to doing sit-ups while in a back brace recovering from a compression fracture of a vertebra.  I was seriously obsessed.  I wouldn’t have admitted that then; it would have been way too threatening.  I look around the gym today, and see lots of women doing the same things I used to, and it saddens me.

Because now, dialing the clock forward something like twenty years, I see the world and myself completely differently.  I focus on function rather than form; it is how I coach others, and what I have come to believe really matters.  Sure it stinks not to be able to run, to be sedentary for a week while I heal.  But I have not felt that strange compulsion that I used to.  I know that a week off won’t change anything: I learned this when I became a personal trainer; I learned it by teaching myself.

So last week, I rested.  And, to tell the truth, it did change me.  It allowed my ankle to heal.  It gave me time and space to clean my home (whoever thought plantation shutters were a good idea should have considered the problem of dust more carefully); it gave me time to calm, to watch the rain fall, to simply be.  Without the adrenaline of my usual life coursing through my veins, the world seemed quieter.  My cats came up for pets and sat on my lap.  My temper was not so short.

After three days, I started doing the physiotherapy exercises that years of ankle sprains have helped me perfect.  I have all the gear: the elastic bands, the dura-disk, the step, the instructions memorised from many a physio.  I walk back and forth in my office on my tip-toes like a ballet dancer and will the weaker ankle to keep up with the stronger one.  I begin eccentric Achilles training, practice my single-leg squats, and work on recovering flexibility.

And I am okay.  Perhaps that is what this time has been meant to teach me.  That running is a part of me, but I am no longer fleeing.  I am no longer chasing perfection.  I sit within my own skin, calm and certain.

Today, I went to the gym for the first time in a week.  I couldn’t go all-out; that would have been foolish.  I set the treadmill on a gentle incline, and gradually increased it to 11% (if that is what 11 means on the incline button).  I did not let myself run; I held on to the notion that I am aiming at this half-marathon in three weeks time, and to get there, I must be smart.

And perhaps therein lies the answer to my lack of agitation over this injury.  It is just another part of training, recovering from injury, using my learning to strengthen what went wrong, to fix the bits that are temporarily broken.

I see myself, in several weeks time, running along my favorite trail in the Dandenongs, the light filtering through the trees.  I close my eyes and I am there, smelling the sweet smell of the woods, watching for the wallabies that may cross my path, hearing the kookaburras chortle after me.

It is without compulsion that I run.  And that makes my running, when I can do it again, all the more sweet.

And to answer the question – what would I do if I could no longer run?

I would find solace in a different activity, perhaps in playing the piano, or painting beautiful pictures, or in doing Tai Chi.  There are many, many paths to soul.  I think, really, that’s what my friend was trying to remind me.