Do you know the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips? A friend of mine once told me he heard it while running a race, then added it to his playlist. I tried it for a bit, but it was just too slow for me. No “oomph” in the song to get or keep me going, you know? But this morning….this morning things were different.
I haven’t run in 61 days. (But who’s counting?) I’ve tried to do a few running intervals within my treadmill walks and it’s been ok. I immediately felt great after my mini-runs, like I was floating on air. I felt so light and free and fabulous. Yet within an hour, my back always felt tight or just painful. So I’ve continued my elliptical and walking workouts and just doing my best to stay in shape until my visit to the neurosurgeon to find out what my other choices will be.
When I woke up this morning, I immediately got into my workout gear….and just felt grumpy. I walked out to the kitchen to discover my husband didn’t finish washing the dishes from the night before, like he said he would. The coffee pot was dirty, as was nearly every coffee mug we own. To say the least, I was pissed. I slammed things around in the kitchen and washed the damn dishes. I told my husband I was angry and why I was but just left it at that. I didn’t want us to argue or be mad at each other all day, but I couldn’t let it go either. Thankfully he understood why I was ticked and cleaned up the breakfast dishes without my asking.
As I got my boy ready for basketball, I started to feel…jittery. The thermometer said 25 degrees–the warmest it’s been in a while. Maybe….maybe I could walk or even run outside? Most of the ice was gone, wasn’t it? I wasn’t sure, and honestly, I was nervous as hell. I felt like I used to feel before a race, anxious and nervous and desperately wanting to just run and be ok at it.
Eventually I got the kid and husband off to basketball practice, put my running shoes on and just stood in my mudroom. “I can do this,” I thought. I *want* to do this. So…I put my headphones on, my hat, jacket and mittens, and stepped outside.
Oh man, it felt great out there. When it’s been 10 degrees during the day, 25 degrees (and getting warmer!) felt incredible. I gingerly walked down our driveway between the icy ruts and stepped onto the road. There was a layer of ice underneath the dirty snow, so I knew it would be slow going, no matter if I walked or ran. But it looked doable. So I turned on my ipod and looked through my playlists. I didn’t want anything too fast. Normally I’d go for the dance music, something to make me want to move. But this was unlike any run I had ever done before. There was no speed goal, not even a goal of finishing really. I think….I think I just wanted to feel good. To feel happy. To feel like myself again. But I was scared. I wasn’t sure if my leg would work correctly or if my back would start to hurt. So instead of worrying about any of that, I picked out a song that makes me think of my friends and my family and ultimately makes me feel safe and loved. I listened to Phillip Phillips sing, telling me to be calm and not to think about those things that scare me, because they’ll just drag me down. And to “just know you’re not alone, cause I’m gonna make this place your home.”
As the first chorus played, I picked up my feet and started a slow trot. It never got much faster than that, but I didn’t care. I trotted along, being very conscious of how my body felt. The first thing I noticed? Body parts were jiggling that didn’t jiggle two months ago. THAT was disturbing. But I went on. At the end of the first 1/4 mile, my lungs felt like they were on fire. It was only 1/4 mile!!! But I kept on, damn it. I figured that if I could make it to the 1/2 mile mark, then I could run my previously typical run of 3.1 miles. (Don’t ask me where the logic is in that, because I have no idea.) Just past the 1/2 mile, I walked up a hill, did a quick body check (back ok? check. legs feel strong? check. feet numb? check.) and continued on down the road.
No matter the temperature, wintertime in Maine really is wondrous. I kept looking up and around at the snow-covered trees, just admiring the beauty. After a bit, I had to concentrate on the road and where my feet landed. It was a bit slick in some areas and even at my slow pace, running downhill was a bit challenging. When I finally looked up again, close to my turn-around point, I saw a young deer on the side of the road watching me. I smiled…and actually waved. (I really have lost my mind.) He stared at me for a few more seconds, then scampered across the road and into the woods. I audibly sighed. I’ve missed this so much in the past two months….the beauty of the outdoors, the wildlife….the sweat trickling down my back, the burning lungs, the ache in my legs as I try to sprint that last 1/4 mile.
With the thoughts of all the runs I’ve missed, I slowly made my way back home with more lively music pumping through my ear buds…Pitbull, Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Linkin Park. As I ran my last 1/4 mile, I didn’t think I’d actually be able to sprint. I was pretty sure my body wasn’t up for that. But I dug my ipod out again and found “Home.” As I tried to pick my feet up, I felt like everyone I have ever loved, dead or alive, near and far, were with me…running ahead of me, behind me and beside me. I don’t know if I finished any faster than the rest of my run, but I finished with a smile, a little laugh and I think I felt a little like the Grinch at the end of the book. Holly’s “small heart grew three sizes that day!” It was a little surreal, but deliciously so.
The rest of the day went by in a happy blur. I seemed to have more patience, even when my son was starting to lose it while we were shopping. I teased my husband in a fun and flirty way and all in all just enjoyed the day with my little family. There was no arguing, no whining, not even a roll of my eyes. I even played a mind-numbing game of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards with my son and didn’t complain. (Seriously, have you tried to play these card games? I think I’ve accomplished something major here.)
I do know that I can’t run like I used to….at least not yet. My back didn’t hurt after this run, but it didn’t feel quite right either. I feel a little out of alignment. I did some stretching and such, but I know I need to find out what I am truly “allowed” to do and not to do. I’ve been told by my physical therapist that running did not cause my herniated disc nor will it make it worse, BUT, if I feel pain, I shouldn’t do it. Period. So…for now….I will enjoy the occasional run and hope that running will continue to be a part of my future. And until that time, I will listen to Phillip Phillips crooning, remember today’s run and feel absolutely loved.