Last September I was running down River Road, a popular walking, biking and running route in the Twin Cities. It was early morning; the path not yet crowded. I was only a few minutes into my run, still warming up, when a father, pushing his son in a stroller, came running toward me.
“Look!” said the little boy (loudly), “She’s running SO SLOW!”
Actually, I was glad to be running at all—and glad to be running again. My re-entry into running began this past April when my husband and I traveled to the east coast to visit our son, Brendon. Sitting at a restaurant table, with lunchtime subway sandwiches before us, Brendon talked energetically about his training schedule for a marathon in November.
I absorbed his enthusiasm. “You’re giving me inspiration to run again,” I said.
True, I used to run about twenty-five years ago. At that time, we lived on the edge of a western suburb, where a nearby highway stretched into a quiet rural area that served as my running course. I ran four, six, eight miles some days.
I loved to run. I loved feeling strong. I loved doing something positive for my body. But after a few years, when a move took us into the city, I found it difficult to keep up this regimen. Running was no longer a part of my routine.
Until this year. I was inspired.
Brendon suggested that he and I run the Thanksgiving Day 5K in downtown Minneapolis this year. Without hesitation, I latched onto the idea, and upon returning home from our visit, I began a running program: run three minutes, walk three. Run four, walk three. Little by little, I told myself, I’d get there. I was new at this. I must take it easy.
Apparently I didn’t take it easy enough.
After one week, my knees hurt with every step. My left knee seemed only a little sore but my right knee felt deeper pain, especially when walking down steps. I was concerned.
“When your legs get stronger, your knee will feel better,” said my son. Others told me the same. Nevertheless, I felt conflicted. Should I keep running? Will I do more damage to my knee? Yet I passionately wanted to run the Thanksgiving race.
For months I tried to find a “magic cure.” I read everything I could find on “runners knee.” I did leg-strengthening exercises. I even stopped running for awhile. Yet improvement was barely discernible. For months I asked, Will my knee ever get better?
I’ve never been an athletic person, and at any other time in my life, I would have given up when knee troubles started. I would have told myself that my knees were not cut out for running.
Yet I was determined to share this race with my son. It was my connection with him that kept me motivated and determined. It was my connection with him that kept me grinding away at boring isometric exercises, even when I wasn’t showing improvement, even when I didn’t have time, even when I was dead tired from work. Running this race mattered to me because he mattered to me.
And now, after all these months of training, exercising, and worrying, I’ve run a 5K race in St. Paul (at an overall pace of 13.26, my best so far) and the Thanksgiving Day 5K that I trained for all spring, summer, and fall. And my husband, Rick, joined us as well.
My future running plans? Keep running! Running has given me new life with new goals.
And to the little boy who so accurately announced my slow running speed to the world, I say, “You are exactly right. My running is slow. My knee recovery was slow. Even so, I am grateful. I am grateful for the health and ability to run again.”
Yes, so slow…and so grateful.