First, let me apologize for not posting here in quite some time. I’ve been running. Sure, it’s not all I’ve been doing. But sometimes it felt like it.
Ever since I decided to take on this sport as if I were Forest Gump on my 35th birthday three years ago, I’ve been trying hard not to hate it.
Still, I persisted and this past summer, probably around the time I last wrote a blog, I decided to train for a 10K here in Paris, which is about 6.2 miles. To someone whose running routine originally consisted of a 20-minute, barely 2.5-mile, jaunt around the park this seemed unattainable.
I downloaded an app called “From the Couch to 10K” to guide me since I still struggle with basic running quandaries like whether to drink coffee before or wear my sunglasses during. Since I wasn’t starting from the couch, per se, I skipped ahead to week 6 of the 14-week program.
Fast forward to last week, 10 days before the race. I ran in Paris. I ran in Long Island. I ran in NYC. I ran around parks and I ran through nature preserves and I ran along the West Side Highway. I ran to Grandma’s house and I ran to the bank and I ran to yoga class. I ran in the sun and I ran in the rain.
Of these three-day-a-week runs, I finished some feeling fantastic and some feeling exhausted with my shins on fire, and some, like last Friday, in the back seat of an Uber unsure whether I’d be able to walk from the car to my apartment.
Somewhere around mile three at about the 32-minute mark of what was meant to be a 5.7 mile, 58-minute run, I twisted my left ankle and instantly knew I was out for the count. I did not cry. (Right away.) But I did say “fuck” out loud, officially proving that I still think in English since “putain,” its French equivalent, was not the word that naturally slipped off my tongue while half-standing on some corner in the 17th arrondissement writhing in pain.
I felt dizzy. I leaned on a wall. Then I called Uber. I didn’t think I needed to call an ambulance, which was fortunate since I do not know the appropriate number to call for such help. (Note to self: Learn it.)
Once the car arrived, I hobbled into the back seat and immediately took off my ugly Asics to reveal a large tennis ball forming around my ankle, la cheville.
“J’ai mal au cheville,” I said to the driver, telling him I have a bad ankle, which is most definitely not the proper way to express what had happened to me. (That’d be, “Je me suis blessé a la cheville.”) He understood regardless, and asked if I wanted to go to a doctor. I attempted to say I just wanted to go home to ice it. Glacier. Ice. He stayed on course. At least one of us could.
Upon arriving home, I made it to the elevator, into my apartment and plopped onto my armchair where I more or less remained for the rest of the weekend. My friend Maggie, who is also my running partner despite the fact that we’ve never actually run together, but are training for the same race, came over to check on me and pick up some stuff from the pharmacy. Ironically, I’d been to the doctor the day before to obtain my medical certificate to participate in the race. My doctor also prescribed me a maximum strength anti-inflammatory for the shin splints I’d been having, which I would now use on my ankle.
As I sat there with a dripping bag of ice on my foot that was propped up on my leather pouf from Morocco, I thought back to the beginning of my run that day.
I had begun with a brisk five minute walk down the hill from my house in Montmartre and then picked up pace on the Boulevard de Batignolles on the way to Parc Monceau. It was then, as a remix of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was playing, that I started to recall my journey over the past few months.
I started out biking to the park and then running 20 minutes. Then, since there were never any bikes when I needed one by my house, I started running to the park, and biking back. As my training program progressed, I ran to the park, around the park and back from the park. Eventually, I had to find a different route because even that was too short (and going ’round and around and around one park after a while gets a bit boring).
Which is to say that despite this royal fuck up I’ve both literally, and metaphorically, come a long way.
Still, as the weeks went on and Maggie and I kept each other motivated through progress texts and calls, I kept saying I’d be happy if I just finished the damn thing. I didn’t care so much about time. I just wanted to complete it.
Now, I won’t even start it. My disappointment knows no bounds.
I started writing this post last weekend, but held off publishing it in the hopes that maybe—just maybe—I’d be good to go. I thought, perhaps foolishly, that even if I was no longer hobbling around Paris like Keyser Soze in Usual Suspects, all the necessary ligaments and joints and muscles and bones would be strong enough to hit the pavement again. Sadly they’re really not.
That said, I won’t be picking up my bib as I was meant to do today, or indulging in Italian carbs tomorrow, or carefully planning out my race-day outfit on Sunday. There will be no filtered Instagram with a #firstrace hashtag to post. Instead, this will be just another weekend in Paris. (Yea, yea. Lucky, lucky. Grass, greener. Give me a break.) Of course I’ll make the most of it and try not to hope it rains on race day. Kidding!
After The Great Twist of 2016 happened, part of me wondered whether it was a “sign” that perhaps running really isn’t for me. Then again, it could also just be a very ill-timed accident. Because, truth be told, it’s been over a week since I last laced-up, strapped on the armband and hit the streets—and I think I miss it. I’m not sure if that’s because I can’t actually do it—I do NOT like abstaining from something I’ve set out to do—or if I really do miss the very activity I take hours to convince myself to do; the very activity I considered no longer doing once this race was through.
In fact, as I gloomily sat here finishing this post, I sent my friend Amy a text looking for some much-needed back-up.
Girl knows how to give it to a friend good. Hashtag blessed.
Mom also knows how to set a daughter straight. During our Skype session, she asked if I were still going to go to the race site on Sunday. I scoffed. As if. But in not so many words, she suggested I stop feeling sorry for myself and go anyway to check out the scene and cheer on Maggie. (“Do you have plans?” she asked, incredulously. “A date???” rubbing it in.) The initial thought of going seemed idiotic. Then, as I fought back the tears, the thought of not going seemed idiotic. Of course I’d go to support her.
I’m also going to give myself the chance to fill ‘er back up and run like the wind. I learned about another race of equal-ish distance in just over a month’s time. My ankle’s got to be better in another week or two, after which I’ll load up that app and get back to the routine. This time, though, I won’t be running just for me and there’s a pre-requisite: Since it’s a charity race to benefit prostate cancer, an illness that has affected people I love, participants are asked to grow, wear or draw a mustache and don an orange tee-shirt while running. It’s not quite the first race ensemble I envisioned for myself, but it’s for a good cause and promises to be a good time. Bonus? For the first time in my adult life I can embrace the peach fuzz on my upper lip and donate that month’s wax money to help rid the world of something way hairier.
Instead of leaving you with visuals of female mustaches or a photo of my swollen ankle, which actually has gone down, I bid you adieu with a shot of me standing on my head a few weeks ago in my backyard in Long Island, participating in a physical activity that’s way more my speed. To be fair, it was taken shortly after I’d return from a sweaty 4-mile run and I held it longer than any headstand I’d held before. Seems I finally defined for myself the meaning of a runner’s high.