Earlier this spring I returned to running for the first time in 17 years (thanks to the wonderful Couch-to-5K running plan). I began losing weight and feeling better about myself, but most importantly I just really enjoyed running. After a little while my days felt incomplete without a run, and during the day my mind would often wander to thinking about my next run. I can't overstate what my return to running has meant to me. I even blogged about the joy of getting reacquainted with running. It's been an amazing, life-giving experience.
Thus I can't overstate how disappointed I am that, on doctor's orders, I've been shut down for four weeks. No running, he said. Get on your bike instead.
But I'm a runner. Not a biker.
You see, by early August I was getting comfortable running 7+ miles twice/week. My last long run was an 8-miler to the Washington Monument on August 9. After a day of rest, I went for a short 4-miler on August 11, but didn't even last 2 miles. I felt a shooting pain in my left shin, and a throbbing pain in my right. After feeling this horrible pain on another run following several days of rest, I went to the doctor, who told me to stop running for two weeks. Two weeks came and went, and I went out for two short runs – 1.5 miles – on Monday and Tuesday of this week. While I felt better, the sharp pain persisted in my left shin. And so I called the doctor back, and that's when he gave me the four-week extension to my running moratorium.
I went to the running store last week, before the call to my doctor, and in hopeful anticipation of a cautious return to running this week. The guy at the store looked at my shoes – purchased in May at another running store – and said, "they're shot." "But they have less than 200 miles on them," I said. He then told me that they had a 180 lb limit (I weigh, ahem, a bit more than that), and that he himself had prematurely blown through a few pairs of this brand. So while I don't want to blame my current predicament entirely on a poor choice of shoes, there's part of me that wants to find the guy who sold me those shoes and have a word or two with him.
Well, I bought new running shoes, the pair I wore on my two short runs earlier this week. They feel great, and hopefully I'll be running with them in a month or so.
So my hopes and plans to run the Army Ten Miler in October and the Richmond Half Marahon in November are shot. For even if my shins feel great after four weeks, there is no way that I could get my body ready for the Ten Miler in less than a month, or for the Half Marathon in about five or six weeks. These goals are now out of reach. For this year, anyway.
So today or tomorrow I'll take my bike to the shop, get it tuned up, and pretend to be the kind of person who likes bicycling. And tomorrow I'll go to the gym for a training session to learn how to use the machines properly, and pretend to be the kind of person who likes the gym. Let me be clear: I'm not the kind of guy who really likes cycling or the gym. Bikes and gyms don't come close to matching the simplicity and purity of running. Cycling is complicated – special shoes, helmet, gloves, and a bicycle with hundreds of parts, riding on busy roads or crowded paths where you've got to dodge pedestrians, runners, and cars, stop for cross traffic, and so forth. The gym is equally compliclated – what machines to use, how to use them, what is the proper weight? – not to mention the stale, sweaty air inside. Running is so much more straight forward – strap on your shoes and run according to some plan. Running is the only kind of fitness I've ever really liked or enjoyed. Running is so meaningful for me (see that blogpost I referenced earlier). Shifting gears is going to be hard.
Well, this is the test, isn't it, to see if I'm so dedicated to this running thing (and to my general fitness) that I'll do anything – even ride a bike and do gym workouts – to get my body ready for an eventual return to running? I hope and pray that I can do this. I may even come to like it. But like it or not, it's my only option.