I was hoping I’d never have to write this. That I’d never have to finally admit that my knees are broken. I wish I could be saying here that after months of physical therapy, MRI’s, orthopedic surgeons, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, foam rolling, ASTYM, endless ice packs, iontophoresis, and hours of strength training I was cured. And that come the end of August, I would be telling you stories about the time I ran Hood to Coast for the 5th time. But that’s not going to happen and it sucks.
I think I’ve mentioned my knees enough on here for you to know that I don’t have good ones…I have an extremely tight IT band in my left leg and arthritis in my right knee. That I love running but my knees don’t. That I’ve run Hood to Coast 4 times and I’ve been doing everything I could to get one more year in. That I planned to end my HTC reign after 5 years. But yesterday I had to call it. HTC is August 24th and I still can’t run more than 4 miles without serious pain. And even though I think I could make it through the pain during my runs, my IT band gets so tight afterwards that I can barely walk. I ran 2.5 miles yesterday morning and for the rest of the day (and even this morning) I was dreading every time I had to get up from my desk and walk to the break room because it hurt so bad.
And so I officially told Chris I was out. And I guess I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I started writing this and tears welled up in my eyes. It’s like I didn’t actually have to face it until I wrote it down. And maybe you don’t get why I’m getting so upset about a race but it’s almost like the race signifies something more. I have never been an athlete. Growing up I was the girl who was picked last for a team, who’s mom wrote her notes to get out of PE, who never broke a sweat unless I was blow drying my hair. But all of that changed when I started running the summer before my Jr. year of college. I realized that while I was never a fast runner, running gave me a sport; it was my connection into the world of athletes. It made me an athlete.
Even though I ran I still didn’t consider myself a “good” runner. And Hood to Coast was for runners. People had asked me to run on teams before but I turned them down until my step-mom asked me to join her on her team in 2008. So I trained. And on the day before the race started she dropped out due to injury and I ran my 1st Hood to Coast with a team full of strangers. Not ideal. While I was so proud of myself for completing the race I didn’t have a great experience on the team side. In order to have a great HTC experience you need a good team. That’s what makes it. Luckily I met up with Chris’ team after the race and l was able to see what it might have been like to run on a team with friends. And so I decided to run it again in 2009 with his team. And I loved it. And I was hooked.
And so I ran again in 2010 and 2011. And even though I cried through some of my legs last year from my knee pain I still signed up again this year. HTC is like some crazy drug that makes you an addict. And I still can’t tell you if it’s the team bonding, the 3 am runs in the dark, something I do with my husband, or the fact that when you cross that finish line you feel like the best athlete in the world. For me, crossing that line was my superbowl, my 1st place. And for the little girl inside of me who was laughed at in PE, it was my one shining moment. And it’s hard to realize I won’t get that feeling this year.
I feel like I’m letting people down – my team, my husband, myself. That maybe if I focused a little more on my stretching exercises or if I went through another round of physical therapy I could do it. But I finally decided I had to listen to my body. I’m 30 years old. I have years and years of fitness ahead of me and I cannot put myself through another one of these races. That I can run 3 miles right now is kind of a miracle. After HTC last year I thought I was done with running forever but 9 months later, here I am, squeaking out a couple runs. What’s going to happen if I run HTC again this year? Is it going to be another 9 months of pain, another round of crazy doctor’s bills, another summer of disappointment as I try to push myself to do it again? Or is it going to be worse? Am I going to permanently damage my knees? Am I going to come out of the race with more arthritis? Would I actually have to start getting the steroid shots into my knee that my doctor keeps pushing?
My body is telling me to take a break. Maybe it’s just a year off. Maybe it’s forever. Only time is going to tell. Unfortunately no matter how much I wanted this, how much I reached for it, how much I put my mind to it, I have to accept that it’s not going to happen. That for now, my Hood to Coast running shoes is getting sidelined.
So now the only thing left to do is find a new goal right?