Avid runner’s ‘tough break’ offers life lesson

If there is one thing every runner has in common, it is the inevitable running injury. In running, as in any sport, the harder you push yourself and spend time on your craft, the likelihood increases of something going terribly wrong.

I am 36 years old and in my career of running I have had my battles with injuries, but nothing so bad that I would be out longer than two weeks. On June 1, while out on a training run, I decided that I would take on the trails over at Snake Lake. I had recently been there with my daughter’s pre-school class for a field trip and I thought the trail was rather clean and inviting. Ever since coming back from Iraq my body hasn’t been able to really deal too well with surfaces that are unstable. This basically limits me to hard surfaces, which allow complete connection with the ground. However, I thought I would give it a try – why not? I was in awesome shape and my legs were strong.

Everything was going as planned as I made my last loop around the trail. I came to a stop just before the entrance to the last trail, as I was a tad tired, but I felt like I could go on. As I looked up, I noticed another runner making his way into the trail. I thought I would do some chase and pace work but instinctively the thought of just taking it easy and stopping crossed my mind because I had the Sound to Narrows race the following week and I was bringing down my running miles.

Oddly enough, I went against my first thought and started to chase. It wasn’t long before I realized that the guy I was chasing was a young buck and he was running at about a 6:50 pace. I wasn’t far behind him, but then at the half-mile mark he slowly disappeared. As I came around the bend I remember there was a trail that led up onto the street, so as I was running I looked up to see if he had made his way up that way. Suddenly without notice the ground beneath me became unstable and my leg rolled all the way under. The “POP” I heard was loud as I fell, tumbling to the ground. The shock set in immediately. I couldn’t believe it, so I got up and tried to make my way off the trail, but I barely could. It so happened that I fell on the only real loose gravel on the whole trail, right next to trailhead.

REALITY SETS IN

After about two months of recovering from a broken ankle, I am facing the reality that it will be a daunting task to be the runner I was before. During my injury I was able to get on the bike and ride roughly 100 miles a week, and in doing so that helped my cardio, but left my running legs out of the mix. The road to recovery is often a lonely one, simply because most of the people I coached or trained with are continuing to improve, and there’s no way I am holding them back. Mentally and physically this injury has been the worst for me. With the Disney World Race five months away there is plenty of time to get better, but this time it will be different. If there is one thing that I have learned from this experience is that you must listen to yourself and know what you can and can’t do.

NOW WHAT?

The mission is simple: to get back to where I can be competitive in my age group. These days I am not running my 6:45 pace, but rather a nice 9 minute pace. I have made the STAR Center of Tacoma my training ground. I discovered a perfect one-mile loop that has a nice, clean surface and, believe it or not, a half a mile of trail. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. I make my trek to my course and run, doing my best to get better even though I still feel a bit dinged up. Since I am here so often I conveniently have started a group for it called the STAR Center Run the 1 Mile Loop Group. If you are interested in running with me go to http://www.meetup.com/Tacomas-Star-Center-Run-the-1-mile-Loop-Group to sign up and get out there and run with me. So far I have had some great people to run with and in doing so made some great running friends.

So now the story really starts for me. Can I get back to where I was? Do I have the determination and discipline I had before? Time will only tell.

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