Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Long (Long) (Recovery) Road

For the past months, I've been posting my runs on Strava with the acronym of LR, which stands for the Long (long) (recovery) Road. I started this road in earnest in late December 2016 with an ironclad commitment to avoid running too many miles or hills too soon. My propensity for over training had gotten me into trouble repeatedly in the past, and I knew that only an extremely judicious ramp up in my training intensity would be likely to get me back into ultra-marathons.

I have to admit that I started with some pretty grave doubts that I would ever be capable of putting down significant mileage over tough terrain again. Despite these doubts, I kept running and hoping that I could somehow make it. There were times when I was sure my shin splints were ready to roar back into a prohibitively painful inflammatory blaze. Just when the shin splints would seem to recede, something else would start nagging--IT band pain, or plantar fasciitis.

The worst thing about these nagging pains and fears was that I was being so careful. I was running just a handful of miles per week. I was religiously stretching, doing self massage, and strengthening targeted muscle groups. I felt pretty sure that if my body couldn't handle such a slow and gentle build up, my running would be over. As I pondered this possibility, a disturbing question came to mind: what does a distance runner do when he cannot run long distances?

I'm not sure of the answer, but I do happen to feel a strong connection between my spiritual and physical life and thus am open to the possibility of God caring one way or the other about how and why I run. Perhaps God intends me to run better and stronger than ever or maybe he doesn't. I'll admit I pray it's the former, that my running is an acceptable offering, so to speak, and not an idol.

One thing is certain, however, my running since starting my recovery road has been more spiritually focused and rewarding. And at least for now, I have a mustard seed of evidence that the running road hasn't ended quite yet: my symptoms are improving and I'm running longer and harder than I have in over a year, still a long ways to go for sure, but progress!

I'm even planning to sign up for the Vermont 50k this coming September. I dream of running that race hard and fast, maybe even doing unexpectedly well, and then unashamedly giving God the glory. For now though, I'll just run and pray one day at a time.

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