Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back on the Bus

Gray clouds pulled in over the noon-time sky yesterday. The wind rattled the bare tree limbs and pushed around the chairs on our back deck. A chill ran up my spine as I tightened my laces, pulled on a pair of gloves, and clipped the dog to her leash. For the first time in 38 days (who’s counting?), I was going for a run.
Around this time last year, when I waited impatiently for my knee to heal so I could get down to Boston training, I remember speaking to my Uncle who said something along the lines of, “You need to get to the point where you don’t even think about it or question that it’s hurting.” But every twinge, every misstep sent my mind reeling. It wasn’t until many months later that I returned from a run and thought, Oh, I guess my knee is ok.

So it’s been with my ankle and the soundtrack to my rehab, The Waiting is the Hardest Part. On my “feel the day” morning walks, when I’m riding what seem like endless miles (yet going nowhere) on the exercise bike, or doing squats in the gym, I brace for that ankle to…well, brace.

It had been just over two weeks since I last tried to run, and all signs pointed to hope. Just this past Saturday, I gallowalked for three miles, gaining confidence with each successful running step that my ankle didn’t shatter. I gave my dad the good news later that day and got that extra bit of reassurance I seem to think we all need before truly believing in something. He said, “You sound completely healed. You’re not going to do any more damage to it, you just have to deal with any of the lingering discomfort.”

Mattie and I stepped out the door and she seemed to sense that this wasn’t just another long walk to the clubhouse and back. The wind bristled her fur and she scampered to the end of her leash then turned her head to look at me as if to say, “We’re doing this, right?” And we did.

I started off at a slow jog up the short hill that leads out of my neighborhood. Each time I stepped down on my right foot, I waited for the pain. When we hit the circle and the road tipped down, my old turnover returned. We chuffed up the hill to the stoplight and waited to cross the main road. There was some discomfort but nothing that raised any red flags.

I rested against the light pole and rolled my ankle in wide loops, clockwise then counterclockwise, as the traffic zoomed by. It clicked around 11:00 each time. When the light turned green, we trotted off into the next neighborhood, and the discomfort vanished completely. I tapped the volume on my iPod and opened up my stride.

We got to the one mile mark and surged onward. I tried to temper the adrenaline coursing through me, recalling the wise words of the Wolf in Pulp Fiction. I cheesily uttered, “Man, I feel so alive!” to the dog who forged ahead, her ears back and collar jangling.

Between miles two and three, I started putting the running schedule together in my head. “Ok, I could get in three days this week, topping off at five miles on Saturday. Then maybe four days next week with some light speed work, then just slip right into my half marathon program….”

When we returned to the stoplight for the final .4 miles of the run, Calvin Harris' “Feels So Close” came on, a song I downloaded long ago with visions of flowing through runs while listening to it. Finally, I had that chance.

Back at the house, I sat the top step and unlaced the key from my shoe as I always do and sat there to let the wind wash over us and let the sweat dry. I thought about Quenton Cassidy and how nice it was to be “on the bus one more time.”

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