Ready to Run.

It has been exactly 48 days since my car accident.  Forty eight days since the last time I laced up my running shoes.  My last run, in fact, was actually just hours prior to stepping out into the street and being met by a Chevy Tahoe.  A quick 3 miler in the pouring rain with my dogs – had I known at the time what was to come, I would have kept running for hours.

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The past few weeks have been a mixture of ups and downs.  I’ve rested, iced, cried, sulked, laughed, smiled, and I can almost say…recovered.  The giant gash and painful stitches are now simply a puffy purple scar.

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My new sporty knee brace has helped me get back on my feet – walking all over town, and even getting full motion back in bending.  There is still some side to side pain and I can’t kneel directly on my knee, but I know that will all come with time.

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And yesterday I had my second to last check-in with my orthopedic doctor.  With a few weeks of no-resistance cycling and elliptical-ing behind me, he gave me the go-ahead to try lightly jogging as soon as I felt comfortable.  So naturally I went home and immediately changed into running gear…

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It felt really weird to be pulling out my dusty Garmin and heading out the door for a run.  What was once a daily part of my routine suddenly felt like a lifetime ago.  I took the dogs with me for moral support (and to exhaust them!), and we headed down south on the Mt. Vernon Trail. 

The first few blocks felt weird.  I almost felt like I was little off balance.  I had no idea what a “comfortable” pace felt like anymore, and the dogs were yanking me to go faster, resulting in a major upper body workout.  I could tell instantly that something felt different with my left knee – not painful, just…different.  I think it is still some residual tightness and loss of muscle in my left leg.

I kept my pace where it felt comfortable – not worrying about how fast I used to run or what I used to do.  None of that matters anymore.  I’m choosing to see my injury as an opportunity to start over with running – to go back to the beginning and re-find the sport that has done so much for me.  Turns out that my beginning falls somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00 minute miles.  I’ll take it.

My Garmin chirped to tell me that I had run one mile, and I literally felt my whole body warm with pride and joy.  I was running again.  I was totally out of breath, had almost no endurance left, and felt wobbly and awkward, but I was running.  I ran to the water fountain, stopped for a quick drink, and turned around to head back to my house. 

I haven’t thought about my accident much in the past few weeks.  Emotionally, I feel a million times better.  So I was surprised that as I was running past the river bank, I found myself having vivid flashbacks to hitting the ground just after the impact.  Maybe reliving it a few more times is my mind’s way of healing too – next time I’ll take an iPod.  I blinked the flashes away and continued along back towards my house, and ended up on my front steps with 3 miles under my belt.  How did it feel?  I think this picture says it all…

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Literally beaming with pride.  And you know what?  I actually kept a pretty decent pace!  A 9:38 average after 6 weeks of no activity – amen.

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As amazed as I am by the human body’s ability to heal, it is also somewhat shocking how quickly the body loses fitness.  I feel SO out of shape.  But the good news is that fitness is something I can change, and I plan to ease back into my runs and workouts slowly.  There is no point in rushing and setting myself back further.

I woke up this morning incredibly sore, feeling more like I ran a marathon than three miles.  I’m not sure I’m quite ready to fully jump back into running quite yet.  I think I’ll probably do a few more weeks of low-impact cardio, just to ensure that my body has healed enough.  But I know that I can run, and I know that I’ve still got my spark.  And right now that is the only thing that matters.

This morning I entered the lottery for the Cherry Blossom 10-mile Run here in April.  Ten miles by April?

Here’s hoping.