Well technically, I have two. But I have this one that doesn’t exactly “work.”
Let me back up.
I was born and my legs came out all funky looking and so I wore casts for 6 months. At least that’s what my parents told me once. I’ve yet to see any proof of it. Apparently the doctors said something like I would never be able to run.
No one mentioned that to me, however, and I decided I liked running. I loved/dreaded running the mile in gym class twice a year. I dreamed about being a high school track star, though by that time my older sister had already joined the track team and in my stubbornness I decided to focus on soccer.
I was really, really bad at soccer. That and my high school only had a boys varsity team to try out for. In retrospect, I’m sure I would have made a JV girls team, but unfortunately that wasn’t an option at my tiny, tiny high school. After two years of trying out I finally relented and went back to my original dream of being a runner.
The problem was – I was slow. Super, super, slow. The best thing my coach could come up with to say about me at our annual dinner was “When Jackie came out for Cross Country, she thought she’d be last in every race. Well let me tell you, she was only last in one race. And that was just most of the race, she finally passed two girls at the end.” (of course he failed to mention there were 10 people in the race, but whatever).
Actually, I was a pretty decent 800 runner and could hold my own in a sprint relay, but unfortunately my coach didn’t figure that out until way too late in my career for it to really matter.
It didn’t matter that I was perpetually in the bottom third of every race, I loved it. I could go and not think. Or I could think about anything and everything I needed to. I could move. I relied on nothing, no rules, no balls, no quick moves or fancy footwork, to achieve. Just my feet and the ground.
When college came, running and I had turned our fall and spring relationship into an even more on again off affair. Without my coach pushing me to just run until my bad ankles had built up into strong ones, I would get discouraged after a few weeks of trying. And I would get slower. Much, much slower. To the point a 10 minute mile was an accomplishment.
But fast forward to my senior year of college. I had started running again my junior year, and while I took off the next summer for an incredibly busy and travel filled few months, I started up the on again off again relationship sometime that fall or winter. By spring, I was running regularly, signing up for races and loving every minute of it.
I ran my way through graduation, through ending a long relationship, through a long summer full of despair, being flat broke, and eager anticipation. I was ready to run all the way to Washington state. I ran through 5ks and 10ks and over trails and rocks and started to train for my first marathon.
And then it happened. That terrible terrible moment. I swear I had flashbacks about it for months. Okay maybe years.
I fell off a sidewalk.
Seriously. All I did was step right on the edge of a sidewalk, and BAM. On the ground. Scraped knee, sore ankle. I had done it probably a million times before. My ankles like to just “go out” on me.
There was no swelling, no bruising. I took a day off and then I ran again. But it was a little sore to the touch and when I ran it felt a little sore afterwards. No biggie. I figured it would go away eventually.
So I kept running. Through another 5k, one I had hoped to finally break the 25 minute mark on. When I couldn’t get in any faster than 27, I figured something might be wrong. So I took a few more days off and then went right back to running.
My goal for that summer was to hit 10 miles. The night before I was to go on my first ever ten mile run, I went out dancing with my friends. One swing dance later, my ankle swelled up, ached like hell, and I could hardly walk on it.
The guy I was dancing with felt really, really bad. I don’t think I ever managed to convince him it wasn’t his fault.
So I stopped. I moved to Spokane and my ankle kept on hurting. Someone lent me an ankle brace which I stupidly used for months. If I didn’t, my ankle would be too sore at the end of the day to walk on. But I think relying on it for that long let my leg muscles atrophy and become even weaker. It was no longer running that borrowed my ankle, it was walking and standing.
One day I absent-mindedly rolled my ankle at work to stretch it out and heard a really loud CRACK. Something had happened – I could move it again. It felt 100% completely perfectly better. For about 10 minutes.
I went to physical therapy for a few months until they kicked me out. All of my “tests” like standing on one foot and balancing were satisfactory, and I couldn’t convince them that the pain was still there and still bothering me.
Now my ankle still hurts whenever I use it. If I go weeks without exercising, it feels great. If I go on a long hike, it aches terribly. I desperately want to run again but I don’t know if it will ever be possible. My ankle cracks and gets stiff and aches constantly. Doing yoga recently has made me realize how significantly different my left leg is from my right leg in terms of strength and flexibility.
So recently, I’ve started trying. Running 1/10th of a mile at a time. And maybe it will work.