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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Truth About Running

Right around Halloween last year I decided to get serious about getting into better shape. My reasons were all the usual ones: I'd started putting the "middle" in middle aged, I didn't want to go down the type 2 diabetes/high blood pressure path my grandparents followed, and I'd really like to quit huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf every time I hike in Yosemite.

I tried bootcamp workouts; they worked but they also kept me up at night with aching joints and cramping calves. I thought long walks would do it, but they tended to terminate at my favorite coffee house, leading to a positive calorie intake. I can't bike to work any more, my new workplace has no safe bike route and I need to use my car for work once I get there anyway.

Finally, grudgingly, I settled on running.

I don't like to run. It's embarrassing: all the sweating and breathing so hard it makes passersby look up in a panic; that feeling like my lungs will explode just before the ripple in that extra layer around my middle creates enough air displacement to set off car alarms. To counteract this embarrassment, I run in the early mornings when the only other people out there are the newspaper delivery woman and other covert runners. The latter are too preoccupied with their own workout to bother with me plus they're always faster, so our contact is negligible.

When I started out I could hardly make it two blocks before I felt like stopping. That second wind people talk about? Mythical. It's more like a settling numbness and quiet desperation to make it back home to the couch. I kept at it though, and eventually built up to a mile, then two, then three. I actually lost weight and was feeling almost like I was starting to get the hang of it.

Right up until last week.

I start running around 5:30am, enough time to make a 3-4 mile loop and get back, walk the dogs, shower and get to work on time. Last week I started out like usual, making my way through the neighborhood, past the graveyard, up and down the one hill I torture myself with every other day. At the bottom, I thought to myself "Hey, I feel pretty good! I'm going to run up to the next stop sign, make it a tad longer today."

Never is it a good idea to make it a tad longer.

I usually run on the street. It's dark and there's no traffic that early. Besides, the sidewalks in my neighborhood are notoriously uneven. So, just as I rounded the corner toward that stop sign, a bike came my way at the same time I heard a car coming. I didn't want to get hit by the car, and I didn't want to get in the bike rider's way, so I jumped up the curb to the sidewalk. As the bike passed I looked toward the street to check on the car's progress just as my toe caught on an uplifted square of cement.

Cue the slow motion.

Down I went, first hitting with my left knee, pitching forward onto my right elbow, smashing my right hand into the sidewalk. To make matters worse, my arm buckled under me and I slid into home on my face. I felt my upper lip and nose scrape over the cement, finally coming to rest on the lower edge of my front teeth. That final sound of the grit grinding on my incisors was what scared me most; skin heals but teeth don't grow back.

If luck can be found anywhere here, it's that it was cold; I had on a long sleeve shirt, long tights and gloves. The damage would have been much worse if I was in shorts and a t-shirt.

Here I am, post clean up, but pre-swelling stage.
I picked myself up and limped back towards home. I could feel the blood dripping off my lip, and had to spit out a bunch of sand and bits of leaves that were stuck to my teeth. I wasn't sure exactly how bad it was but it felt like parts of my lip were dangling off. I found a Kleenex in my pocket and dabbed at it; a glob of blood and skin lying on the white tissue made my stomach turn. Strangely, I wasn't in that much pain. After walking a few blocks, I realized it was going to take forever to get home (because of course this happened at the farthest point out–isn't that always the way?) so I started jogging back.

By the time I got home, Mark was back from his workout wondering where I was. When I walked in the door I didn't have to look in the mirror to see how bad it was, I only had to look at his face.

He got me cleaned up enough to make sure stitches weren't in order, then took the dogs for a walk while I tried to shower the grit out of my wounds.

It's been an experience this last week, working and going about my day to day chores with a face that looks like it's been through a grinder. I've gotten everything from sympathy from co-workers to indifference to revulsion from strangers. I agree, it certainly wasn't appetizing to look at for the first few days, but geez, did they think I did this on purpose?

Everything's healing up nicely now, but surprisingly my knee hurts the worst. It was the first to hit, so maybe it took the brunt of the fall. I just don't remember scraped knees being this painful when I was a kid. In those days, I'd fall and scrape my knee, run in and tell mom, she'd patch me up, give me a popsicle and it would be all better.

I'm thinking I need to stock up on popsicles. So much for that weight loss plan.

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