Friday, July 30, 2010


When I was a spry nineteen year old, my sister began her first term in college and moved in with me on special dispensation. Normally the college required first term students to live in the dorms, but they could live with family if the place was close enough to campus. Later we took in one of my sister's best friends, who several years later passed away in a single-car accident. (She fell asleep at the wheel.) In those days, at least how I remember them, we had good times.

One of the things my sister did was join crew. To be part of the team, you had to go running a certain distance every day. To help her out, and because I'd gained my freshman fifteen (and some) I promised to join her at least every other day.

So we went running around, usually after dark because of our schedules. I'd always hated running until I started running with her. We'd joke around, talk about stuff, and challenge each other. When she couldn't run on a given night, I missed it enough that I went out on my own. And it was great. I started to feel truly alive, and light--not just in weight but in spirit, like I could go on forever (though while I was actually running I felt like a lead butt.)

Then one day, when my sister got a bit ahead of me on the big, last-stretch hill that we lived on, something in my knee went ping. It wasn't a particularly sharp ping, but I stopped running and started to walk, and then limp, and then found I couldn't really bend my leg much.

By the time I got to the apartment my knee had swollen up. I thought I'd snapped something, but it turned out to be less serious, but at the same time, more extensive damage. By running on pavement, and not just any pavement but sidewalk cement which is the worst, I'd turned the normally smooth surface under my kneecap into a rough road full of potholes.

It took a lot of ibuprofen, months of physical therapy and rebuilding to get my knee to bend again, and then another couple more months to walk without a limp. The doc told me that I'd probably need knee surgery by the time I reached forty.

Well, here I am at 42, and I'm running again. No surgery, just the application of lessons learned and reaping the benefits of years of keeping my legs, especially my knees, in the best shape that I could. I try as much as possible to do 'silent running'--trying to run quietly as a measure of how much impact my joints are taking. I also practice good alignment--feet, ankles and knees all pointed in the right direction. And last, although I'm forced to run on pavement most of the time because of our local roads, when conditions allow I take breaks from asphalt running by running on the shoulder wherever it was recently mowed and flat enough.

I'm not there yet, but I'm looking forward to feeling light again. I've taken up running since college a couple of times, and stopped, and started and stopped. I don't know how long I'll stick with it this time, but I have a new incentive.

The boy wants to be able to run an 8 minute mile. We've worked him down to about nine and a half minutes on the flat, about eleven and a half on the grueling hills around our house. I love running with him. We joke around, challenge each other, and talk about stuff ....

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