The Long Road Back

A slipped disc, arthritis (at 36!), and spinal degeneration. “Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself (and lamented to hubby) when I saw the diagnostic report from radiology. My chiropractor was quick to call me, and did a great job trying to convince me this wasn’t the end of the world. But at the end of our phone call, he uttered the most devastating words a runner can hear: “Oh, and just as a precaution…let’s have you take a break from running until we can get you into physical therapy for an evaluation.”

I ended the phone call with a cheerful voice. But as soon as I hung up I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of panic, dread, and anxiety, topped off by a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

At work, I was a disaster for the next few days. I work in a running store, with runners. Helping them achieve their next goal is how I spend every day. Except I was lost without my own. Without being able to jump on the treadmill between customers. Without being able to drop E off for school and take a quick 30 minute run past my favorite Pilgrim cemetery. Without being able to say with 100% certainty, “I’m a runner.”

The forced time off made me consider that last statement pretty deeply, especially given that my most recent marathon was less than a month after this break. After a lot of brain power, some therapy, and a few good beers, I’ve come to the conclusion that many people probably had from the beginning. If you run, you’re a runner. If you run, but you’re injured and recovering, you’re a runner. If I run, but am spending five months in intensive PT without running, so that I can run with minimal pain for the rest of my life…well, then I’m a runner too.

Even during the break.

Today, five months out from the diagnosis, I’m excited to start running again. Friday is the day. It also happens to be the day I lead a group of new runners out into the world with a brand new learn-to-run program. I’m excited for me, and especially excited for the women who are stepping nervously into the most transformational sport of their lives. We’re going to have fun, but most importantly, eight weeks from now, all of us will know with certainty that we rock!

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