Few things are more satisfying to me than having a plan and seeing it through to completion. I thrive with an agenda, and I’m baffled how anyone accomplishes anything without Excel spreadsheets and To-Do lists. Beyond that, I like tangible results and being able to look back and see what I’ve done. I take before and after pictures of big cleaning projects, I feel a sense of calm when I see my daily list has a strike through every item, and I cherish my finisher’s medals because they signify all the work that went into each race. In Strengths Finders terms, I’m an Achiever. In laymen’s terms, I get shit done.
I had a grand plan for 2019, but in April it went off the rails.
Eleven weeks ago I injured my foot. Eight weeks ago a doctor told me to take a break from running. Since then, I’ve listened. I’ve rested. I’ve asked for help. I’ve followed instructions. And still, I’m not there yet. The end is in sight, but I have more work to do.
My foot rarely hurts anymore. With time and patience, I’ve been able to reintroduce weight-bearing exercises like using the elliptical, walking in the shallow end of the pool, and doing single leg squats under the direction of my physical therapist. This recovery is a journey all its own, and the process is humbling, maddening, and never, ever linear.
In April, I hoped to earn a shiny medal in Eugene. When I had to withdraw from the race, the arc of this training cycle was abruptly cut short. All those hours I spent training felt like they were wasted. What was the point of pushing my body so hard when I ended up in a worse situation than when I started? And what did I have to show for it other than crutches, a cane, and a depleted Health Savings Account?
But that time and effort wasn’t wasted. I learned so much preparing for Eugene, not to mention all I’ve learned about my body and the mechanics of training as I’ve rehabbed my foot. I’ve been running for 20 years, and the last few weeks have taught me brand new lessons about form and technique that will improve my running for years to come.
As much as I value the abstract knowledge I’m gaining, I still craved something tangible. I wanted a way to honor the commitment I made to myself. I did the work. I logged those miles. I did everything in my power to prepare, and when 26.2 was no longer possible, I put in a new type of work in recovery.
This was an entirely different race experience, so I bought myself a different kind of medal. This pendant reads “Flecti Non Frangi,” which translates from Latin to mean “To be Bent not Broken.”
Both the physical and mental pain of the injury have taken their toll. I’ve struggled with motivation to go to the pool or weight room, I’ve battled that toxic inner voice that has nothing helpful to say about my body, and I’ve spent more time than I like to admit feeling sorry for myself. This spring nearly broke me by bruising both my bone and my ego.
Nearly. But it didn’t.
No more looking back and wondering what kind of race I could have run if I’d only done X or if I‘d stopped doing Y. No more looking back and feeling sad or like a failure. No more looking back and resenting this body that did so much, but ultimately still has a limit.
It’s time to do what runners do best and move forward. My training for Eugene wasn’t wasted. The lessons I learned will shape my running for the rest of my life. I didn’t get the ending I wanted, but my story isn’t over. Now when I look back on this training cycle, I can reflect on my new medal and see only that I didn’t break.