Running is My Religion

Even though my father is a minister, I have never considered myself a religious person. I was brought up Unitarian, which is a very open-ended, free-thinking religion, which is part of what I love about it. But it also means there’s very little direction in terms of spirituality. You’re forced to find your own. I guess I would say I haven’t been given the gift of faith just yet. But running? Running is the closest thing I have to a religion. Running calms me. Running gets me outside of my head and into nature. Running gives me the mental space to sort through difficult things, and often get answers. Running pushes me physically which brings my body to an energetic, yet peaceful and calm place.

I’ve been battling injuries for over a year which kept me from running until very recently. Being back in that space — moving, breathing, thinking, observing, pushing — makes me realize how important it is to me and how nothing else in the world can replace it for me. So today I brought my camera with me to share a day in the life of my religion. Running.

Path to Enlightenment

Holy Water

My Pew

Fellowship

Fellowship

Fellowship

Choir

Minister

Heaven

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My Year of Injuries

So I’ve cautiously entered the world of running again.  And when I say “cautious,” I mean I was downright petrified to take those first few steps, for fear of a major setback.  A little background:  last year — August of 2010 — I was training for the Baystate Marathon.  Training was going well enough that I actually thought I might qualify for Boston.  Then on August 29th, 2010, I did a 17 mile training run.  The run went fine.  I was sore afterward, but nothing unusual.  The next day I woke up with stabbing, burning pain in my right foot.  Not the heel, particularly, more on the inner-side of my foot where the heel and leg meet.  I thought it might get better as the day went on, but it did not.  In fact, it got worse.  I remember looking at one of my colleagues, tears springing from my eyes, saying “I fear this means Baystate is out.”  She told me to stay off it for a week and I remember thinking a week was like a lifetime.  I only had a little over a month left to train, so staying off it for a week would derail everything.  But I instinctively knew that this injury was not something minor.

I went to the doctor and he took X-rays.  No sign of a fracture.  (I would later hear from a different doctor that a fracture would not be evident on an X-ray this early after the injury.)  He diagnosed me with acute Plantar Fasciitis.  I was shocked.  I’d had some minor PF issues in my running career, but nothing that kept me away from running for more than a week or so.  This did not feel like PF to me.  Still, I took his advice:  wear supportive sneakers at all times; do calf stretches consistently throughout the day, every day; and absolutely no running for 7-10 days.

Well those 7-10 days came and went and my foot wasn’t any better.  By now I had accepted that the marathon was out.  I just wanted to run again.  I got a referral for a well-known Physical Therapist in Boston and went for an initial visit in mid-September.  After examining me, he said that I had torn the fascia in my foot.  So not just inflammation, but a full-on tear.  He was optimistic that I could rehab within a couple months and get back to running.  I worked with him from September-December, and still I wasn’t getting better.  I was at the point where I could do the elliptical.  And the pain had lessened somewhat since the beginning, but if I did something as small as walk around barefoot for an evening, or wear any shoes other than my sneakers, it would completely flare up again and take weeks to get back in control.  By December, I was at my wit’s end.  I went to yet another doctor, at a different hospital, with a well-known and highly-recommended orthopedics department.

After examining me, this doctor was convinced I had a calcaneus stress fracture.  Put me in a boot and crutches right then and there.  Scheduled an MRI for the following week.  Did I mention this was December 30th?  Happy New Year to me.

A week later, I got the MRI.  Two days after that, I called the doctor to discuss the results.  (Meanwhile, I had been wearing the boot and using crutches for over a week.)  Our conversation went something like this:

Doc:   “Everything on the MRI looks fine.”

Me:  “Fine?”  “FINE?!?”

Doc:  “Yes – it looks good. I don’t see any overt signs of a stress fracture, but I do think there’s one there.  I’d like you to keep using the boot and crutches for another 2 weeks and come back and see me again.”

Something didn’t sit right with me.  Since wearing the boot, my foot had not only NOT gotten better, it felt worse.  But I figured 2 more weeks wouldn’t hurt it and I scheduled a follow-up appointment with the doctor.

Meanwhile, I had an unrelated appointment with my chiropractor.  When I showed up wearing a boot and using crutches, he was shocked.  I’ve been working with this chiropractor for years, and being the type of person who would always rather heal things naturally if at all possible, I had worked with him to heal a hip injury a year earlier with lots of ART, assisted stretching, and spine adjustments.  When I told him everything that I had been through over the past few months, he asked if he could look at my foot.  After examining it, he said he was sure I did not have a stress fracture, that I did in fact have an extreme case of Plantar Fasciitis.  He proceeded to do Graston on my foot, which was extremely painful.  I was convinced he was doing more damage to my foot, but I really trust this guy, so I stayed with it.  I left the boot off for the rest of the day and woke up the next morning and my foot actually felt better.  I never wore the boot again.  I started going to my chiropractor every week for more Graston and ART.  Slowly but surely, my foot started to get better.

Let me take a step back here and just say that running is my passion.  Running is like my religion.  It keeps me sane, it keeps me happy, and it’s something I love in a way that I love nothing else.  So this injury did not come lightly to me.  Not running for more than week was torture – much less four months (and little did I know how much longer I had).  So in between all of these doctor visits, I obsessively scoured the web for any and all solutions for Plantar Fasciitis.  I bought anything and everything I could get my hands on (a night splint, the Strassburg sock, a massage ball, a massage stick, athletic tape, shoe inserts, the list goes on and on).  Nothing worked.  Until my Chiro started doing the Graston.

My Chiropractor told me that he can usually get runners back on the trail within a month of starting Graston.  We’ve since discovered that I would end up being his toughest case.  It took me four months before I could start easing my way back into running.  And I had setbacks.  Did too much too soon.  Wore the wrong shoes.  Didn’t keep up with my stretching.  This went on for several months until August.  A full year after the onset of this injury.  Finally, in August, just in time to run the Beach to Beacon 10K in my home state of Maine, I had reached a point where I could run a couple times week without flaring up the PF.  The PF was still there, but I could keep it at bay enough to run.

Then on Labor Day I had the brilliant idea to try water skiing for the first time in my life.  Third try up, the boat shot off and my right ski wobbled off to the left, crossing over my left leg, causing me to feel a big rip/stretch in my right leg.  I fell down in the water, completely defeated with the knowledge that I had just f*cked up something and it could be bad.

Well it’s now November and after two more months of Physical Therapy for the leg, and continued Graston treatments for the PF, I am finally running again.  At the suggestion of my PT, I started out by walking  5 minutes, running 5 minutes, walking 5 minutes, etc.  I’ve never done that before coming back from an injury, but I highly recommend it.  It gets you out there – and you don’t stress the body anywhere near as much as a full-on run.  I’ve now moved up to 5 minutes walk, 10 minutes run, 5 minutes walk, 10 minutes run, etc.  and I’m up to about 5 miles of this.  Three times a week.  Three times a week, I get to run!!!  I used to run 6 days a week and 3 days would’ve been a very slow week for me.  But right now?  It’s heaven.  But I’m still scared.  I still have not fully healed from the water ski injury (same leg as the PF) and my PF is still not fully healed, but I’m out there.  I don’t want to jinx myself.  I almost don’t want to get too excited because I fear I may have a setback, which would be heart breaking.  But for now, I’m just full of gratitude for the ability to get out there and run again.

So while this injury was one of the most frustrating and difficult things to deal with, I did learn a lot about myself as an athlete.  But that is a post for another time.  For now, I will focus on the road ahead and immerse myself again in the running community – something I wasn’t able to do for a long time because it just made me sad.

Coming soon: Plantar Fasciitis:  the Evil Beast that can Teach you or Tear you Down; Why’d I get injured in the first place?  My favorite running bloggers, My training/racing schedule

Always a Bridesmaid

(Spoiler Alert!  If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read the post).

I watched the movie Bridesmaids last night.  I loved it.  It was a unique angle on complex friendships and what can happen when two people’s lives start to go in different directions.  But most of all, it was funny as hell.  A woman took a dump in the street wearing a wedding dress; that’s funny stuff.  But here’s where they lost me:  as soon as the Cop came into the picture.  Because I knew.  Right then.  That the cop was going to be Kristin Wiig’s love interest.  And I didn’t want Kristin Wiig to have a love interest.  For once — just one time — I wish these screen writers in Hollywood would let go of the fantasy that we’ll all be “Happily Ever After” as soon as we meet a man.  As soon as we get married.  Because you know what?  I liked Kristin Wiig’s character.  Just her.  By herself.  Struggling through a hiccup in her career.  Watching her best friend move on with new friends and a new fiancé, while her own life felt like it was spiraling in the opposite direction.  And you know why I liked it?  Because I’ve lived it.  I’ve lived it and continue to live it to some extent.  And the second they bring in that man – in this case the Cop – they lose me.  They lost me.  And I loved that Cop!  I loved the actor.  I loved his character.  I wanted him to pull me over for a broken tail light!  But see, that’s the problem.  As soon as she met him, she was unrelateable to me.  As soon as she met him, I felt that familiar shift.  Like right when I was steeped in camaraderie with this character –  right when I was starting to feel okay about my own similar struggles with being alone – she meets a guy.  And that guy helps her to tap into her passion for baking again.  That guy makes her see what a douchebag John Hamm’s character is (played brilliantly by Mr. Hamm, by the way).  That guy is there for her at the end of the movie for that great Hollywood ending.  We’ve seen it before in books and films:  Eat, Pray, Love;  Bridget Jones’ Diary, hell, even Sex and The City ended with Carrie Getting the Guy.  Remember the movie Singles?  One of my favorite lines in that movie was when Bridget Fonda’s character breaks up with Matt Dillon’s character and proclaims “Being alone: there’s a certain dignity to it. ”  Until, that is, she gets back together with him at the end of the movie.  Just once, I’d like to read a book or see a movie with a strong, flawed, single woman navigating her way through life alone.  With no man to “save” her.  Because we are out there.  Lots of us.  And we are constantly bombarded with messages that being alone is Not Okay.  That being alone should be considered a temporary Rest Area on the highway to marriage.  And it’s reinforced with these so-called books about amazing women doing it alone.  Because the story always ends with them not being alone.  So I’m here to talk about my life.  And how I’ve managed — through lots of soul-searching, book-reading, and even some therapy — to learn to be happy alone.  (most of the time). To know that I don’t know when or if I will meet a partner in life, so I better hurry up and get living.  And be okay with that.  To make my own happy ending.  To not wait for a man to make me feel like I’ve finally “arrived.”  To arrive in my own life — take responsibility for my own life.  And be Happily Ever.   Alone?  That remains to be seen.  But for now, I’m Happily Ever Alone.  And I simply don’t believe that I’m alone in this.  Am I wrong?  Do you agree?  Can you relate?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…