Had 2019 gone according to plan, I would have pushed myself all spring with the goal of setting a personal record at the end of April. I would have woken up early every Saturday to run increasingly long distances. I would have followed my training map diligently with a culmination of a gloriously fast 26.2.
I almost got there. Almost.
Every training cycle teaches me something, and this time around I was reminded just how cold-hearted life can seem. With zero humor or even the slightest sense of irony, the running gods let me get to the bitter end of training, and then, 18 miles into my final 20-miler, only then did my foot start to hurt.
The good news is it’s fixable. The bad news is it’s a slow process.
I’m currently four weeks into an eight week recovery for the bone bruise on my left foot. That means eight weeks of no running, no yoga, no hiking. Eight weeks of not really knowing what to do with myself. Eight weeks of facing insecurities of being in a bathing suit because I don’t have many options other than lap swimming. Eight weeks of feeling out of place in the weight room because seated lifting is one of my other limited options. Eight weeks of missing my running buddies. Eight weeks of craving the clarity that comes after an especially challenging yoga class. Eight weeks of trying my hardest not to get sucked into the Instagram comparison trap.
These eight weeks will pass whether I’m pouting or not, so it doesn’t do me much good to hide under the covers and cry (but sincere thanks to those who indulged my wallowing). The Eugene marathon wasn’t in the cards. Life goes on. Having one part of my body out of commission doesn’t exempt me from taking care of the rest of myself, and regardless of what happened with marathon training, my overarching goal to be healthy and happy hasn’t changed.
Eight weeks of remembering that the world keeps on turning even when I desperately want it to stop. Eight weeks of getting over myself. Eight weeks of no excuses.
Of course there are moments when I surrender to self-pity, but best I can I try to snap out of it and focus on what I can still do. My arms work just fine. My heart can handle a lot. My legs are strong as hell, and turns out there are lots of ways to stay active without putting weight on your feet. I love the structure that comes with training for a marathon, but this detour means I need to get creative and find another path forward.
Bit by bit, I’m able to lift heavier weights and complete more repetitions. In the pool, I can swim laps faster than when I started, and I don’t have to stop so often to catch my breath. I’m getting more comfortable being in spaces I used to avoid. Strength never looks just one way, but after so many years of expecting strength and growth to show themselves as speed or distance on the trail, I’m learning to broaden that definition.
Strength can be physical progress. Strength can be mental grit. Strength can be a willingness to try again tomorrow.
Detours are rarely negotiable. This isn’t the road I expected to take this summer, but as detours tend to do, I’m discovering new adventures along the way. I have eight weeks where I don’t need to wake up at 5:00 a.m. every Saturday. Eight weeks of challenging myself in ways I never imagined. Eight weeks of exploring. Eight weeks of creativity. Eight weeks of reevaluating which parts of my life I do out of habit, which parts I do out of necessity, and which parts I do out of love.
I’m not fully sure where this road will eventually lead. Maybe I’ll heal and come back faster than ever. Maybe I’ll need to reassess how long or how often I can push extreme distances. Maybe Plans B and C become Plan A and I focus long term on swimming or weightlifting. I’m grateful to have options and a body that (mostly) works. As for the rest, I’m figuring that out one day at a time as I continue to show up where I can and redefine what strength looks like.