and you’re running and you’re running away but you can’t run away from yourself

The Doc told me that I was halfway through my free form run, and that I was looking good.

“Thanks, doc,” I said, even though I knew she couldn’t hear me. We’ve spent a lot of time together in the last two months, so I feel like I know her, even if I’m just another Runner 5 to her.

Another runner came toward me. As we passed, we waved to each other, sharing a little bit of strength and encouragement. It’s part of the camaraderie that I feel like all runners share, without regard to our individual levels of fitness.

My spirits lifted, and I involuntarily picked up my pace a little bit.

That’s when I felt the first twinge of tightness in my left calf muscle. I slowed immediately to a light jog, and then a walk. Fifteen feet later, I was sitting on the curb, trying to massage out what had become a full-on charley horse. I tried active and passive stretches. I massaged all around my calf, my knee, my ankle … nothing was working.

“Just two minutes to go, Runner 5,” said the doc.

“I’m down, doc,” I said. “My goddamn fucking useless body just cramped up for no reason.”

I pulled my phone out of my armband, paused and then stopped my mission, and felt a wave of fury overwhelm me. There I was, on the curb, not even fifteen minutes into my fifty-two minute training run, and I was pissed. I couldn’t walk, I certainly couldn’t run, and it was all because my body — my own goddamn body that belongs to me — broke down. I felt helpless and frustrated. I slowly stood up, and took a few tentative steps toward home. I wasn’t that far away — probably a half mile — but it was going to take me a very long time to get back to my house.

I limped a few steps and had to stop again. I sat back down on the curb and tried to work out the tightness that had now spread from my knee to my foot.

“What’s your fucking problem?!” I said, to my leg, completely aware of how dumb it was to talk to my calf, and too angry to care. “I’m trying to take better care of myself, get myself into better shape so I have a stronger body and a better life, and you pull this bullshit?! Fuck you!”

Then I laughed. Pull this. Ha. Ha. Ha. Durr. Puns are great.

I called Anne and got her voicemail. I left a message with my pathetic status and asked her to drive down the street to pick me up when she heard it. I began limping home, slowly, painfully.

“I can’t even listen to the story now, because of you,” I thought at my knee, in full on ranting dad mode, “It’s week six of training and something new is going to happen and now I can’t find out what it is because you couldn’t do the one fucking thing you’re supposed to do, you goddamn quitter!”

Anne flashed her headlights at me as her car came around the corner. I stopped and waited for her to make a U turn. I got into her car.

“Thanks for picking me up,” I said. “this is pretty annoying.”

“Yeah, I bet,” she said.

“I don’t know why this happened. I didn’t do anything different than what I normally do. It’s really frustrating.”

“Yeah, I get that. I’m sorry.”

“Getting older is awesome,” I said, as we pulled into the driveway.

Anne turned off her car. “Ask Nolan what you can do to help prevent this in the future. He’ll know what do.”

Our son, Nolan, is a trainer. He has helped me in the past, and I knew he’d be able to help me now … and he did. He ended up recommending some additional strength exercises to do on days I don’t run, stretching to do during and after running (you should never stretch before you warm up your muscles) and he showed me how to do some trigger-point massage with a golf ball, a tennis ball, and a foam roller. It’s a lot of stuff that I’ll have to make time for, but it will be worth it. It may be hard, but everything worth doing is hard, and at least I have a choice about it.

And that’s the thing: the choice I have about it, because even though I was pissed and frustrated, my body will heal. I will continue to do the things I’ve been doing to make it stronger. I will do additional things, like yoga and stretching and adding potassium to my diet so my muscles are less likely to — hurr hurr hurr — pull this again. But I have friends who live with MS and lupus and cancer, and I never hear them complain about it. Yes, I had an annoying and — in the moment — infuriating injury, but it will be better in a few days, and I can get back on the road with Sam and the Doc, getting closer to my first real 5K race, one step at a time.

Raise the gate! Runner 5 needs to go to the infirmary for a few days.

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