It was supposed to be easy…
One mile. Slow, careful, calculated.
Just one mile.
It was supposed to be easy…but it wasn’t.
Anxious, hesitant, and excited, I strided out of the driveway and descended down our dead end road. I took a right at the intersection and a left onto Pennsylvania Avenue, the main road in my tiny town. This was the beginning and end of every run I ran while home from college. The road was flat and familiar, but the feeling in my legs was foreign. As I approached the half mile mark, just past the little league fields on the left, I felt the July heat beating on my back and I wondered just how I’d make it home. It was only one mile, yet I was questioning if I could finish. Frustration and discouragement filled my mind. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was supposed to be easy and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t.
I reached halfway and as I turned around to head back, I heard a honk, interrupting the pity-party I’d begun throwing for myself. I looked up annoyed, but the annoyance turned to embarrassment when I saw that it was a high school teammate of mine driving by and waving hello. I mustered up a weak wave and thought, “Great, anyone who sees me is going to think I’ve gotten slow and lazy,”—something that mattered immensely to me at the time. I resumed my pity party.
I huffed and puffed for a few more minutes until I reached the bottom of the hill once again. A short ascent and I was home, done with one of the hardest miles of my life. I stumbled inside and immediately laid down on the floor. My mom walked in to ask me how the run had gone. I began to cry and walk her through the misery. I told her the run was awful and that I was awful. I expressed how useless I felt, struggling to finish a mile. I told her I’d never be able to race again, never be able to run 6, 10, or 12 miles again. I conjured up just about every negative thought I could ever have and deemed myself a complete failure.
This run was my first run back after spending eight weeks in a walking boot recovering from a metatarsal stress-fracture. It was the very first time I had dealt with a major running injury and as a result, the first return to running I had ever experienced. I cross-trained through the injury, but since I was home for the summer I lacked the guidance of a coach and didn’t engage in workouts or structured training to truly maintain fitness.
Looking back, I don’t know why I ever thought it was supposed to be easy.
No matter how you spin in, that run felt like garbage.
But I should have expected that. No one told me returning to running after a major injury would be easy, but no one told me it would be hard, either. Knowing what I know now, I would have celebrated after that first mile. I should have sat in the grass and kissed my knees. I should have thanked my body for healing itself and allowing me to run again, even if only one slow, painful mile at a time. Now when I face an injury and begin a return to running, (like I did just this weekend) I appreciate every step. I’ve finally learned, despite my most optimistic hopes, it was never supposed to be easy.