My mother raised me by the age old adage of, “If you’re early, your on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. Late is unacceptable.” This upbringing has stuck with me to this day to the extent that being late is something that makes me uncomfortable to the point where my insides shudder.
My being late, which does happen occasionally, usually results in me promptly being put on the spot in order to exemplify my lateness. Most recently I was seven minutes late to day three of a running clinic. I quietly entered and quickly made an effort to commingle with the group in order to camouflage myself. I felt confident in stealthy maneuvers, which ultimately resulted in a false sense of security. “What’s your story?” I shifted my gaze upward only to realize this question was being asked to me. All eyes were on me as I stumbled for not only understanding, but also for words. Recognizing my tongue-tied state and perhaps embarrassment, she clarified with, “What’s your running story?”
A seemingly simple question, yet something I had never been asked before. My mind raced to determine what to include and what was merely auxiliary. In the moment, the most logical place to start was by telling when and why I began running.
What I chose to share of my running story went something like this:
Growing up, I played ice hockey, which I played from the age of five until graduating from college. After college, I wanted a form of exercise that was accessible and affordable, and running seemed like a logical option. I began running three miles a few times a week and eventually on the weekends would venture out for five- to six-mile runs. It all seemed so simple, so benign. Persistence paved the way for curiosity and I trained for a road marathon. That went seemingly well and I heard about a race called the Vermont 50 Mile. I had no idea what an ultra was, but felt the allure of the unknown. It was during this race that I fell in love with ultrarunning. It became my new passion, filling a void that was left by no longer playing ice hockey.
Me being me meant that I was now an ultrarunner. All or nothing, black or white, in or out–and I was in! I found early success in the sport, winning races while seeing constant improvement, but like any good storyline there was a turning point. Ultimately I would call it fate. In 2005, I toed the line at the Stone Cat 50 Mile in Massachusetts. From the start I felt off, not being able to eat or drink and feeling the need to duck into the woods every few miles. My body wasn’t happy, something was wrong, but I continued as my time was not indicating my struggles. Then around mile 45 I experienced pain in my right thigh. I chalked it up to not eating or drinking, and told myself this must be what total depletion feels like. I walked for a few minutes waiting for the pain to resolve, but ultimately convinced myself to run. I ran but somewhere around mile 48 I tripped, fell, and blacked out. In the fall, I ended up breaking my femur.
Not only did I break my femur but I broke it so badly I was told I may never run again, let alone walk without forethought. I had surgery, spent several days in the hospital, and then three months in bed flat on my back. During this time I had nothing to do, but think. I promised myself several things during this time. My first promise was to my husband and myself. I promised that, moving forward, I would be sure to give my body the nutrients it needed in everyday life and as an endurance athlete. I would be more attentive to listening to my body. My next promise was to myself, I would run again. I would listen to my doctors, I would do the work and I would commit to getting back to my passion at whatever capacity that might be. My final promise was also to myself, I would do my best to not take things for granted in life. I would allow for gratitude instead of criticism.
It took several years, but I began running again. It felt awkward, it felt physically and emotionally painful, but I learned to work on each component. I learned to accept the help of others, I learned to be better in expressing my feelings, and I learned that patience is not my strong suit! Sometimes during my recovery, I progressed, sometimes I plateaued, and sometimes I regressed. During the triumphs and during the tears, I held true to all of my promises.
Over 10 years later and I still feel the effects of this injury, but I wouldn’t change those chapters of my story. They have helped create and craft who I am as a person and as a runner and also help guide me as I move forward to continue write my running story. So, now I ask you the same seemingly simple but also complicated question that was asked of me: “What’s your running story?”
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
Aliza has asked, and now we invite you to answer by leaving a comment. What’s your running story?