The greatest awful injury of my life

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 9.35.38 PMAbout 1 1/2 years ago I was experiencing awful running pains.

I’d done the sport my whole life—through high school, through college—with minimal injuries. Oh, I’d sprained an ankle here and there. Some fleeting knee soreness. But that was pretty much it. I ran 11 marathons, hundreds of 10ks and 5ks and half-marathons. Running was a huge part of my life. My stress release. My love.

Now, however, it was starting to feel as if someone had slammed an aluminum bat into my lower back. Pains routinely shot down my left leg. It was awful and annoying and debilitation, and ultimately a doctor told me that my discs were decayed; that this wasn’t something that would go away; that my days of a five-day-a-week roadrunner were probably over.

I was crushed.

Now, in the strangest twist I’ve ever experienced, I’m elated.

Yes, I miss running. Sometimes terribly. But thanks to the injury—and the need to look elsewhere for physical fitness—I’m in, perhaps, the best shape of my life.

Instead of running, I go to the gym. I get on the StairMaster or Elliptical, type in 55 MINUTES, plug my headphones into the TV and turn my mind off. It’s my hour—almost always at 9:45 pm, when the building is pretty much empty and there’s always either a game or a political show on the tube. I don’t think about work or books or conflicts or calls that need to be made. I think about … nothing. It’s bliss.

Best of all, exercise machines don’t lie. In running, I’d often allow myself to slow down, or take the easy route, or travel four miles instead of five. When you’re in control of your body, it’s a slippery slope. When a machine calls the shots, well, you try and keep up. If you stay regimented, you can’t help but drop pounds and build up the heart.

Happy aftermath: I’ve probably run, oh, four times in the last 1 1/2 years. This past weekend, the wife and her friend were doing a trail half-marathon. At the last minute, I decided I’d join in.

The race was fun and exciting and wonderful and refreshing. It took me back to the place I used to love—pinning a number to my shirt, stretching with the other harriers, standing at a starting line, the gun blasting, the sounds of shoes to ground.

When it was all over, I took pride in the fact that—spur of the moment—I ran 13.1 miles without a struggle.

I was in shape.

Even as an ex-runner.

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