I’ve been working pretty hard. My family’s going through a lot. I’ve certainly had better months than how September and October have been going, and not just related to my injury. Running is what I took up when I needed to heal a lot of things – not just how I felt about my body and the physical health I was in (slightly overweight, but more importantly, sluggish, uncomfortable, weak), but also emotional healing. My dog had just passed away. 2012 was one of the most difficult years of my life. So when I started running, really actually with a goal of training to run a 5K race, just after the death of my dog, I did it as a way of making myself feel stronger. Strong enough to fight off the things that scared me, strong enough to follow through with things that seemed so hard. Maybe even strong enough to run away fast enough to get away from what I didn’t want to deal with.
I feel like this injury was God’s way of trying to get my attention. “Slow down, girl, you don’t have to do everything by yourself.” It’s been a major test of patience, trust, and faith that the pinching pain in my hip would go away eventually and I could be back out there again. It’s been a major test of heart, of taking solace in other things that I love doing, whenever I’ve gotten an email from the Marine Corps Marathon, not knowing whether the information even applied to me anymore. I’ve changed my mind so many times in the last few weeks. “No, I’m just going to skip it and pick a different marathon later on in the year.” “No, I’m going to do it! Even if I have to walk the whole thing!” “Well, I’ll at least cross the start line. I trained, I deserve to do that much. Pick me up in the sag wagon if you have to.”
I got the above tattoo this past spring. I don’t remember what the particular thing was that drove me to do it. I know I was getting over a lot of anger and bitterness that had built up over time. A good run would drain it for the length of my runner’s high. But as soon as my brain landed on the word “heal,” and everything that can be unpacked out of that simple word, I knew I wanted it in a place on my body I can touch and see whenever I need. My mom took me to a healing Mass on Monday night at St. Andrew’s. Sometimes I wonder if I still believe in God. I know there have been moments in my life where I’ve fully believed God is there, right there next to me, that I feel his presence and he’s telling me something, taking care of me, watching over me. But then I wonder later if it was just my imagination, because imagination is so powerful and can create a reality you need it to create. Either way, those private moments of peace were very healing for me. I felt it Monday night. I hadn’t just gone for my hip. I knew I wouldn’t walk out of the church with a magically healed hip, Pennsatuckey-style. I went to find some healing in my heart for all the frustration, anxiety, uncertainty, fear, worries, bitterness I feel sometimes, more often lately.
Back in my pew, as I watched the rest of the procession after I’d had my turn, I felt a slight pressure around my upper arms and thought, Oh, I didn’t return this shawl wrapped around me, I need to do that. I looked down. I had already returned the shawl. But I still felt wrapped in something comforting. Wrapped in safety.
Leaving Mass I still felt a little weak in my hip, a pain when I accidentally stepped in a pothole and tripped a little. Of course I hadn’t been magically healed. But what I did feel was more trust, more faith that things would be okay. That if I stayed well-meaning in my heart and my intentions, nothing could really hurt me that deep.
I got connected to my physical therapist, Dr. Hiza Mbwana of KimbiaPhysio, through Team RWB. You may remember I ran a few Wednesdays with them over the summer. When my mid-week mileage began increasing according to my training plan I stopped going to the weekly runs, but we all connected at the Annapolis 10 Miler, proudly sporting our eagles. Carmen from Team RWB is one of the sweetest people I know, charming and bubbly and friendly and outgoing and invited me to everything from volunteer opportunities to just dinner at her house. Carmen’s boyfriend Hiza is also on Team RWB, and Steve, also on the Team, reminded me Hiza is a PT. If it weren’t for this team, this network of support, I’m not sure I would have been able to go through with PT. Going to someone like Hiza, who is so zen and calm and supportive and optimistic – and SMART and knows exactly what he’s doing – has been what’s gotten me through this rehab process. Other PT’s are great, I’m sure, but I needed someone like Hiza specifically.
Yesterday Hiza tested me out on the treadmill at a really low pace. After a few adjustments, I was running pain-free.
Let me repeat: I was running. Pain-free.
It was short. It will take intense focus to remember to land and spring from the ball of my foot instead of my heel (Hiza showed me the sole of my shoes and how the sole, at the heel, of my right shoe was significantly more worn than the left and what do you know, it’s my right hip that’s been injured). It will take intense focus to run at a steady rhythm, not adducting my knees and not lifting my leg from the hip and swinging it forward with my hamstring. It will take great mental strength to focus on running slowly at a comfortable pace, springing from my calves, walking every 2 minutes instead of every 10. It will take me about 6 hours. Hell, I might not even finish. I might decide my hip is acting up and choose to dip out of the race instead of inuring it more deeply. Hell, after my test runs today and Saturday, my hip might start protesting again and this all could change.
But as of now, I’m yet again planning to show up at the starting line for Marine Corps Marathon 2014. Because Semper Fi? It means Always Faithful. And if nothing else, this injury has taught me to always keep the faith that things get better. Always keep the faith that things heal. And I’m doing this marathon, because SEMPER FI.