Yesterday I had a really mostly reassuring visit with my physical therapist. Of course he is not a wizard and cannot give me the exact “when, where, and how well” answers I want, but he did excitedly praise my remarkable improvement in mobility, balance, and stability. My pain has definitely lessened and it is so much easier to walk normally, get in and out of my car, bring my knee to my chest to do things like put pants on and tie my shoes. Hiza (said PT and wonderful friend) reminded me that these are the most important things – and he’s so right. Running a marathon is my dream, but it is not a necessity in life. I have to dress myself every day. As much as I want to run a marathon, it’s not worth crippling myself so that I need to brace myself every time I want to put my shoes on.

In the mean time, he’s upped the challenge of my PT exercises after I showed him what a superstar I am at balancing on one leg with my knee raised for 5 seconds. Right? I’m SO STRONG guys. Now he’s making me hold it for 30 seconds, while shifting my arms outstretched back and forth laterally just enough so that my torso doesn’t start to twist. It takes a ton of focus.

Another thing he’s having me do is practice the kind of ab engagement I’m really bad at – the kind where you don’t throw your back and shoulders into a crunch just to raise yourself. Instead I’m focusing on making sure everything comes from my core. Which means I don’t get very far at all and am left winded anyway. Guys, this is a WORKOUT. I had to catch my breath between every rep. But I just keep reminding myself it is making me stronger every time.

There is also always the fact that not running 40+ miles a week leaves me with a lot more energy for the little things I kept saying I was going to do as soon as grad school was over and I had time to breathe.

So this is what I’ve been doing with my life lately.

photo 1Yes. These are bouquets of my ever expanding (and mysteriously disappearing and reappearing) running headband collection. Bondi’s on the left, Sweaty’s on the right. They get so lost in drawers that I wanted a dedicated space for them but I have no fancy hangers beyond my one necklace hanger so… BOUQUET OF FLASHY HEADBANDS it is! $2 at A.C. Moore for the vases and now my nightstand has a pop of sparkle and color. (I am missing like half my collection to various long run bags, the laundry, my car, and probably runs themselves where they don’t “no-slip” as well as they promise sometimes.)

In a way it’s to feel close to my hobby when I can’t engage in it. I hung a framed photo of me in my first half marathon, almost a year ago, next to my college and graduate school degrees, which are next to my race medals. Tonight I think I’ll reorganize my running apparel drawer for the 4th or 5th time, just to clutch a race participant shirt. I mean it needs organizing anyway, right? Maybe I’ll find some cool crafty thing to do with all my shorter distance race bibs that aren’t on prominent display with my half marathon bibs.

photo 2

I got an iPod shuffle. I’d been planning on getting one for the marathon anyway, so I’d have a tiny little, non-cumbersome way of listening to music when I need without draining my phone battery. I set up the running playlist last night. So if I do get cleared to run MCM even at the last minute, that’ll be ready.

I’m signed up for the Vegas half on the anniversary of my first, and just hoping I’ll actually be able to run it.

This is the most anxious thing about my injury. There’s no guaranteed “you will be pain free starting now” date, and even after that, if I run, there is no guarantee that the pain won’t flare up again after that. The PT exercises are all about minimizing the chances of the same injury happening again, because I’m strengthening the muscles that caused the injury by being too weak and not engaging and letting my back and my joints take over instead of my core muscles. But still. Sometimes the unknown can be exciting. Sometimes, I just want to know that the bib number I got for the Marine Corps Marathon will be sported on my torso on October 26 as I cross a finish line. And I just want to know that in doing that I won’t cripple myself for another 4 weeks, or worse, longer.

photo 3Driving home from work one day this week was another painful reminder. Look at that road! Look at those sidewalks, that shade, the beautiful crisp fall breeze that you can’t see but you can taste and feel from the color of the trees! Fall is the MOOOST WONDERFUL TIIIIIME OF THE YEEEEAR if you’re a runner. And right now, my connection to running is making bouquets out of my Sweatybands and dreaming up race outfits for, um, next fall. I should definitely be healed again by then right?

So for the next week I’ll be working as hard as I can at hydrating, relaxing, eating my veggies and getting my vitamins, being patient, trusting, and WERKING these core muscle exercises. When I circle back with Hiza on Wednesday, we might just try a little bit of running to see how I feel. All I can do is be patient as my body heals and try not to get my hopes set on it healing in time for MCM, because there is no controlling that. If I can run pain-free next week with Hiza, then I will weigh my options about whether trying to do MCM is worth it, what the chances of reinjuring myself are (Hiza says low as long as I can run pain-free, because my core muscles will be so much stronger and I’ll have kept up my cardio on the recumbent bike) if I do do it, and if I decide not to, when and where to go for the 26.2 instead. And try not to cry every time I get an email from the Marine Corps Marathon about the Expo or the race start time or the bag check policy.

Faith and trust (and okay fine a little pixie dust) that nothing is end of the world and things have a way of working out for the best.