There it is. The moment when you’re done, but you haven’t finished. There’s no finish line to grant you release no mileage marker that indicates your finale. It’s not even on a race course. It’s on mile 4.33 of 6.2 on a well worn training trail, the quiet lake it surrounds the only witness. It’s no heartbreaking DNF, it’s not in a disappointing redline sprint to the finish line. It’s something else altogether. But it is still the ultimate betrayal: body vs. soul.
It started as this little thing. This hitch, this crackle on the stride coming from underneath my right knee. It was a bell in my head but one I happily ignored. It became a rush of heat, tender joints and nagging pain and a trip to the orthopedic who shook his head and used words like “scope” and “time off”. The same orthopedic who said the cortisone shots for the shoulder SLAP tear would be no more. We’ve done this dance before. I nodded silently. Left without meeting his eyes.
So I ran. I lifted, I trained. I didn’t listen as the whispers grew louder. And as I neared mile 4.33 on a day meant for 6.2 my knee would go no more… and I heard the “pop” and the “grind” alarm. And just like that my knee ceased to obey. The simple task of one in front of the other no longer possible. My own body no longer at my command.
Standing there, eyes on the water and for the first time standing still I felt the weight of the moment. The run has ended, but with 1.87 miles to go. The 1.87 miles I’ve run a hundred times before. I was not lacking a will, I was lacking the capacity. Limping the 1.87 miles to my car I knew it was just a training run. But it still felt like surrender.
[Author’s Note: This post is referencing a past injury, but is inspired by the emergence of some chronic knee pain. This injury in the post was ultimately treated two years ago. But it’s a reminder that I often think back on and that still burns from time to time. I’ve had bad training runs, we all have if you run long enough. It’s the unexpected ones sometimes in the most ordinary of circumstances that can still bring you to your knees, however momentarily. I still run that trail. And the last 1.87 is my favorite part.]