My arthritic knee was more cooperative than usual in September and October. I even managed to do two or three “real” workouts with my Phoenix club in Mundy Park. Those times are rare for me now; it’s a kind of ecstasy to be able to run with others, to do some kind of interval workout and push myself hard enough to feel anaerobic pain. And then the pain is over and we stand around in the parking lot talking about the workout, races coming up and other running “stuff.”
I realize again how I’ve missed the camaraderie of my running friends over the past six years—ever since I tore my ACL, ripped my meniscus to shreds, and had two surgeries. I’ve missed being a runner. I couldn’t be a runner any more. I had to make a psychological (as well as physical) adjustment, so that I could be happy without running.
Now I’m thankful for any reprieve I get that allows me to run. But I’ve grown to recognize the cycle. Whenever my knee improves, I push it a little harder, and after one or a few harder workouts it inevitably gets painful again. So I’ve learned that both my times of ecstatic running and my periods of complete withdrawal from running are temporary. Accepting that is part of the psychological adjustment.
After a hard Phoenix workout over two weeks ago, my knee got bad again and I’ve been unable to run since then. But this morning when I saw the sun and felt the nippy temperature, I decided I could try again.
I went to Como Lake, where the flat, one-kilometre woodchip loop around the lake is ideal for easy running. As soon as I started jogging, I could feel the slightest hint of pain in the part of my knee where I get pinching pain, sometimes just from walking. However, my discomfort went away (mostly), and I was able to gradually increase my pace.
I was thankful for every minute of my 5K run! The lake was lovely and tranquil, but I could see evidence of yesterday’s windstorm—a few trees were down, partially covering the trail in a couple of places.
After my run I drove to the rec centre where I planned to do a thorough stretching/Pilates session. After I parked, though, I thought about the soccer field. I wanted to sprint!
I walked behind the building to the field. Yes, it looked enticing. The grass was mostly in sunlight and the field was littered with golden leaves. There were a few soccer players idly practicing their shots on goal, but one side of the field was completely empty.
I put my pack down, took off my coat, and jogged up the empty side of the field. Then I sprinted back into the light of the low southern sun. I could still run!
At the end of the field I eased into a barely-moving jog and let my breath slow down as I returned to the north end of the field. On my second sprint, I reminded myself to run as if someone were chasing me. Yes, really run, pretend it’s an all-important game of tag and you can’t be touched!
I knew my third sprint had to be my last one. As I accelerated, I threw all the strength of my shoulders and arms into my running and imagined my arms and legs were moving like pistons. How perfect running is! I thought in those last seconds of bliss.
Reality check: My all-out 80m “sprints” were probably the same speed as I used to “float” during a 10K race, and an observer would not have seen an efficiently pumping sprinter but rather someone trying to run fast with a noticeable limp. Now I will feel my knee for the rest of the day and who knows when I’ll be able to run again?
But I had those perfect running moments today.