This Saturday I’m signed up to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon here in DC. It will be my third time running it.
Or… it could be my third time.
It might be?
I’m having trouble with the verbs here, because I’m not sure whether I’ll be at the start line. And if I get to the start line, will I get to the finish line?
Last Tuesday I went out for a six-mile run. Half a mile in, I started to feel a dull ache in my shin, disturbingly similar to the sensation I got eighteen months ago.
Back then, I didn’t know what it was, but little aches and pains happen all the time in running, so I kept going. I logged at least another 25 miles before I ultimately got diagnosed with my tibial stress fracture.
But when you know better, you do better. Last Tuesday I stopped immediately, walked slowly home, and haven’t hit the pavement since. I’ve been icing and rolling, and I’ve done two pool runs (a great non-weight-bearing activity) and a little strength training, but that’s it. I need to rest it if I have any hope of running RnR on Saturday.
It’s an example of the hard thing being the easy thing. It’s really hard for me to put my training on hold and rest, when I really want to run, try it out, or do the hop test to see how things are healing. But the harder thing in the short term is much easier than taking 6-8 weeks off because I couldn’t leave well enough alone.
So I’m doing all the good things I know to do.
But it may still not be enough. I will find out tomorrow, when I go for a test run. And even if tomorrow goes well, 13.1 on Saturday might still be too much.
I was training for a personal record, a PR. Now I’m hoping I don’t get a DNS or DNF–did not start/finish. I’ve had a few DNS’s, most of them when I was injured. I’ve never had a DNF.
Experiences like this can bring to light deep spiritual clutter we didn’t know we had. As a pastor and spiritual companion for all kinds of people, I’ve spent a lot of time with the question, “What did I do to deserve this?” Most of the time, there’s nothing the person did. I don’t believe that if we behave well we’ll get rewarded with a cancer-free life. Kindness to animals or paying our taxes on time doesn’t inoculate us from a job loss or a divorce.
Yet I think deep down, many of us do believe we are rewarded or punished based on our actions. We just don’t realize we believe it until something happens to us and we start casting about for explanations, or maintaining our innocence.
Eighteen months ago, I did a lot of things wrong. It was a perfect storm of ignorance, slightly worn out shoes, too many miles, and cambered streets. So yes–sometimes we suffer as a result of our actions. No denying that.
This time, I didn’t do anything “wrong” in my training. I’ve gone over it all in my mind and am fairly confident I didn’t make any egregious errors. Besides, I came back from an injury, stayed injury free, and ran two half marathons, a marathon (which I PRed) and a Ragnar relay. That’s a success!
Rather than be comforted by the fact that I did everything right, it annoys me that I may be injured anyway. (My annoyance is compounded by mildly injured runners all over the Internet who do stupid things, and yet somehow their bodies let them get away with it more than mine seems to.)
But ultimately, what does any of that matter? Would the fact that I did everything right change anything? Tomorrow’s outcome is gonna be what it is. Sometimes stuff just happens. Things go down that are out of our control.
I hate this, by the way. But it’s reality. I study and write about improv, not because it comes naturally to me, but because it doesn’t–I fight the unforeseen every step of the way, and denial + bargaining is a favorite tool. I did everything right, universe! Shouldn’t that count for something?
No, it doesn’t count for anything.
The only thing that matters in the end is what we do with the stuff life hands us. Where is the Yes-And? That is my question, or will be, if tomorrow doesn’t go well.
If RnR is off, I get to attend a workshop on Civic Engagement with some friends.
Instead of the sprint triathlon in May, I’ll sign up for the aquabike (which sounds like a fun contraption but is just a swim + bike event).
And I’ll take several weeks off, and I’ll start over. Again.
I’m not thrilled about it, but it’s all there is.