*Alternately titled: Free Therapy for Kate Wicker
The dreaded running injury I went on and and on about here has turned out to not be quite as devastating as I thought. I have a tendency to ruminate and worry before I even know how badly things really are, and scouring online forums doesn’t help since there’s always someone with a sob story who has been sidelined for eternity with the very same injury, dilemma, or whatever I’m facing. (And somehow I gloss over the myriad people who have overcome said injury.) Worrying is wasteful, but anxiety has been getting the best of me lately.
We get hit with something and feel like we’re about to crumble below the weight of it only to discover either A) It’s not so bad or B) We’re a lot stronger than we think. In this case, it was a combination of both and also an opportunity for me to gain perspective. I have a tendency to get all OCD on things I’m passionate about – from mothering to running – but as the physical therapist reminded me, running doesn’t define me; I define running. The same is true for most anything in life. Nothing defines us except ourselves and how we live our life.
My mom sent me a card with a cartoon pig adorned with feathery white wings on the front. When you opened the card, it said, “Never underestimate the power of positive thinking,” and then my mom wrote that I’d be running again in no time. Thanks, Mom. You were right once again. She’s the same lady who bought me a shirt emblazoned with “Attitude is everything” when I was in high school. I’ve needed those kind of affirming pep talks time and time again in my life, and my Pollyanna mother is good at delivering them.
I am nowhere near 100 percent as far as the injury goes, but I was given the green light to start running again last week and even was told I could give my scheduled half marathon for this coming weekend a go. I have mixed feelings about racing on Sunday. Everyone keeps telling me to take it easy and just have fun, but I can’t stop thinking about the time goal I set for myself. I wanted to shave off roughly 10 seconds per mile from my first half marathon pace that I ran in April (I had completed the big kahuna before – 26. 2 miles but never a half until last spring). When I was feeling healthy and strong, the goal had seemed very doable. Now? Not so much. I feel like I’ve lost some cardio after not running at all for a week. I also tested sprinting with higher heel kicks up my driveway along with my kiddos and super-fast dog, and that’s when the pain really sets in. I’m okay, plodding along but as soon as I push myself, I feel a sharp twinge right below my left butt cheek. So there’s a big part of me that just wants to bag the whole thing. If I can meet my goal, then why bother?
If I thought I could just forget about the goal and not be so hard on myself, I’d have no reluctance about lacing up on Sunday. (And why am I being so fatalistic, anyway? Isn’t there a chance that the run actually might go better than expected? Remember the “when pigs fly” card and don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking!)
However, I’m afraid the adrenaline will get me going, and I’ll push through the pain too much. My physical therapist told me to not allow the pain to get worse than a 4 on a scale of 10, but I’ve always hated those smiley-to-frowny-face scales. I remember when I was laboring with Thomas and had just been admitted to the hospital, and the nurse asked me what my pain was on a scale of 1 to 10. I told her I didn’t really know - maybe a 4 or 5? Turns out I was at 8 cm and gave birth just a few minutes later, so I was probably inching my way closer to a 10. I don’t share this to come off as obnoxious, impervious to pain, or as cavalier. Different people do perceive and even feel pain differently, but the reason I spit out the smaller numbers is out of fear. I cling to the threes and fours on that arbitrary pain scale because I don’t want to use up the big ones until I really need them. I am afraid to say I’m higher than a 4 or so because what happens when and if it feels like I’m on the verge of death? I don’t have anywhere to go.
But, really, the pain doesn’t seem quite as acute as it was (I am running, after all, and that seemed unfathomable just a little more than a week ago), and I can sit without too much discomfort so long as it’s not for too long. My runs have felt pretty good, but I’m definitely slower, and I’m having a hard time with that – partly because of good, old-fashioned hubris and also because I don’t want to just do “easy” in my life. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone, but when does this admirable desire morph into plain stupidity or ridiculous pride? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure I’ll know out there when I’m running the course.
But back to the injury at hand: I can weight-bear on my injured left leg without any shooting pain but even when it was at its worst, I found hope in the fact that I could still bust a move even on just one leg. So even if the race ruins me, there’s always one-legged dancing. Whew.
The physical therapist told me to run the race and be smart. I asked my husband what he thought. “I think it will be fine. Just stop if you’re really hurting.”
I’m not sure I’ll have the strength to stop once I’ve started. To you non-runners, I am truly sorry for so much of the running rumination lately, and I know me worrying about having the courage to stop running 13.1 miles in a row may sound a little loony. People like my non-running dad joke about how they don’t have the strength to finish or even start running that much, but I’m more terrified about stopping because what does that say about all my months of training, my body, and my grit?
My husband also texted me this slightly revised serenity prayer after my bum and leg first started hurting:
He’s a good, understanding man.
My sage 8-year-old advised, “Just have fun!”
Meanwhile, that nagging, little voice in my head – the one who’s always telling me you’ve got something to prove (what exactly I have to prove, I’m not sure) and you’d better earn your right to be taking up space in this world (whateva) – is taunting me with my goal time. Don’t just show up. Run hard. Run fast. Meet your goal or else…
Or else what?
Whether I PR or run as slow a turtle, nothing will really change. And no one else cares what Kate Wicker’s half time is on Sunday, October 20th. Why do I push myself so hard? Why do I insist on over-analyzing and OCDing over things that are supposed to bring me joy?
Maybe this Sunday I should look at the half marathon not as a race or some sort of achievement test but as a journey. Maybe instead of paying attention to the people who are passing me, I ought to focus on the rhythm of my own feet, my personal pace, and just run my own race. There’s a difference between pushing myself within healthy limits and running straight to Crazyland.
I have done stupid things in my life because I’ve wanted to seem strong or resilient or just in control. I’ve deprived myself of food when I’ve been hungry. I’ve exercised as a form of punishment (for eating too much, for not being good enough) rather than as a source of enjoyment or as a pathway to good health. I’ve become so mired in the past and in taking charge of the future that I’ve missed out on the beautiful present unfolding right before me. I’ve coerced a child into submission because I was worried about what others around me thought or because I was hell bent on being in control instead of accepting she was hungry, tired, or both. I’ve put a child in to time out when I knew what she really needed was a time in, safe in my arms. I’ve refused to ask for help when mired in depression or anxiety because “strong” and “faithful” people don’t need professional help. I’ve sought to be right instead of just being kind in discussions with my husband and other loved ones. I’ve pushed myself to the point of critical burnout.
Then – alakazam! – something inevitably happens in my life that strips me of my superhero cape (injuries, sickness, pregnancy bed rest, an awful and humbling mommy moment, etc.), and I’m bare and vulnerable and terrified yet liberated, too, because I discover I am still lovable even when I’m not five or ten pounds thinner, when I’m resigned to the horizontal position and can’t keep the house on my own without help, or I admit to losing it with my kids and then ask for forgiveness, or I ask for help or even medication to battle postpartum depression. My husband loves me. My kids love me. My friends love me. My dog loves me. God loves me.
Before I started suffering from injured runner affective disorder (#RunningNerd), I was on a long run with my peeps and was talking about how a particular child of mine constantly seems to be acting out lately as a test to see if I’ll still love her (which isn’t always easy because even though I know my kids need my love the most when they’re at their most lovable, I regret that I too often can be stingy with my compassion when I’m tired or my child is being irrational or just plain mean). I told my friends that I’ve told her that there’s nothing she can do that will take away my love for her. One of my very wise running friends, who usually listens more than she speaks but when she does talk, you’d better be listening because nothing but wisdom pours fourth from that mouth of hers, said, “There’s nothing she can do to take your love away – or to earn it.”
I have used those words with my children so many times since my friend shared that with me (you can see why I missed running with them so much when I was MIA from our runs for a week!), and what was so completely touching is that I recently apologized to my 8-year-old for a maternal misstep and she gave me a hug and said, “There’s nothing you do to take away my love or to earn it. It’s just there.”
Free love. You don’t earn it. It can’t be stripped from you. It’s there for the taking. God’s love and a healthy dose of self-love is something we are all entitled to.
This Sunday I’ve decided to show up for the half providing my leg doesn’t get any worse, but I’m not showing up to beat my previous time or to hurt myself or to earn anything. I have the spirit to push myself hard, but I need to respect my body along the way. I don’t want to push so hard that I end up sidelined again. No one can break my stride except for me. I’ll keep my own pace and slow down if and when I start to hurt too much and know that those around me have different goals, different bodies, different journeys. I’m going to pay attention to exactly where I am at and how I am feeling. I also plan on dedicating each mile to a loved one or a prayer intention and then if I do plod along, then it just means I had more time to pray.
And at the end of the half, I’ll accept the medal (a symbol of that free love that all we have to do is receive) for me whether I finish with what I deem as a good time or even whether I finish at all.
I will not be misled by my inner critic. I’ll accept that sometimes the hardest path of all is going easy on myself. I’ll run my own race and run it well.
“You were running well;who hindered you from following [the] truth?That enticement does not come from the one who called you.”
Galatians 5: 7-8
The only one who can hinder me from His love, from the Truth is me.
And just because this is my little corner of cyberspace and I can do what I want and my main audience now consists of the grandparents who really would rather skip over my pontificating, especially when it’s about running (yawnnnnnnn….), and really only want to see their grandchildren, a few gratuitous kid photos:
I know mixing patterns is all the fashion rage, but this might be taking it a little too far. Still, 4-year-old Mary Elizabeth remains our resident fashionista. Recently, I put Thomas in a Gap plaid button-down, and she was very excited since I usually just wrestle him into T-shirts. “He looks so handsome,” she swooned. “It’s perfect for when we play house!” She obviously prefers a dapper husband.
Speaking of which, introducing Mr. Wall Street.
Madeline found this suit while thrift shopping with her nana and even though we have no special events planned, it was well worth the purchase to see him strut around in it for one afternoon.
Life is short. Be happy.