Hobbling in the Anthropocene
That’s sometimes what I think I should call this blog. For every good week where I can run up to 10 or even 20 miles have been down weeks where I’m stuck on a treadmill, bike, or something else–where when I retrain it feels like I’m hobbling along rather than running. From the get-go, when I began to retrain in running in late 2014, I overdid it time and time again and have suffered plantar fasciitis, IT band injuries, a broken toe, and, more recently, what I thought was just a mildly sprained ankle (which I kept running/hiking on). These things all have happened in the left leg or foot. My left leg sucks. I just struck it up to “that’s life” and healed and ran more when I could.
I went to the doctor yesterday, and she was bewildered by swelling not only in my ankle but my calf. Her first thought was to get me to take a d-timer test to see if I had a blood clot, so I was justifiably freaking out all day after that. I got the test done yesterday afternoon, and breathed a sigh of relief when my test results come back normal. Then sometime soon I will have an emergency ultrasound done. Though, given it is a day later and I still don’t have the appointment from the doctor, it doesn’t seem like much of an emergency.
Anyway, doc says: No running, no hiking, keep leg elevated when possible, etc. I know now, however, that most runners have these issues. When younger, I was a big runner. I don’t think I even walked anywhere–but now I’m older and things aren’t as agile.
Even running up to 10-20 miles a week, since I started running again, I was on the low end of my Strava group. People there run 20 miles a shot, some of them up to 80-100 miles a week, which just seems insane to me. My Instagram trailrunning friends are full of constant photos of themselves in mid-air grace when sprinting and hopping over canyons and rivers. Just kidding. That’s an exaggeration. Some of these shots are amazing!
When I stopped using Strava, a long-distance runner in the old Strava group said:
For what it’s worth I haven’t been logging on Strava lately, either. I was getting too caught up in the numbers and would push myself to maintain my usual pace for X training run when I should have backed off and taken things easier. It’s a nice ego boost to look at your weekly mileage or faster runs but that’s not really why I run, and I enjoy myself better when I’m just left to my own thoughts.
I think he said it well. For me, it is not about numbers or graceful leaps across mountains but about my thoughts when running and the feeling of running itself. It’s such a freeing experience. That self-propulsion, that gliding feel, the way the wind rushes past you or cools your sweating body and face. The trail at the side. The sky above. The mountains in the distance. The hills that challenge you. The roots and puddles and rocks that test your agility. And even though I blog about running, it is really–as it happens–an intensely personal experience that takes me somewhere else, not just forward in time and space. There are tons of other runners like me. We challenge ourselves, and it feels damn good. For me, and I think others too, we get lost in thoughts and philosophical self-examination. I develop story ideas and my imagination goes wild. I end up in Ireland sometimes, thinking about ruins and cliffs and myths and faeries.
But for now I hobble along.
The other part of this blog “in the Anthropocene” is really the other part of why I blog, as we live in different times than those even a generation before. It’s not just about climate change but all of the environmental degradation we cause and face, which is at a pinnacle–about which scientists describe the Sixth Great Extinction. I am seeing some really beautiful things these days from people being aware of this and working to make a better world–and that’s all we can do, to light the candles in the darkness, to stop buying so much crap that adds to this extinction process, and to be good to ourselves and to each other. I have always thought documenting eras through stories was important. And this is just, for me, a means to that end. I feel running (err, and sometimes hobbling) in the Anthropocene is not just about the physicality of running in this age, but about the sense we may be running out of time in many ways.
By the way, this weekend is supposed to be gorgeous! Almost 30 degrees, which is around 86 F. Where this would be a perfect time to go over to Buntzen Lake, run on the trail, and do a bit of swimming, I have to postpone those wonderful things until the left leg gets an answer. But the black bears are back in the city. We’ve been working on the house, becoming more minimalist–thinking of ripping out carpet and putting in hardwood or laminate. I need to get some strawberries. I guess the point is, no matter the struggle, there is usually also a bright side to be found somewhere. And we have to find that place, and not be so hard on ourselves. The hardest part for me, not running, isn’t competitiveness I feel because others are running better but a more personal feeling of being cooped up and needing that freedom to run. I have had this feeling often in the past six months. The way I deal with it is: when you fall down, you most likely will get back up. I’m thankful I do get back up. Until then, there are strawberries to plant, wine to drink, conversations to be had, life to live.
The featured image is one of a purple iris I took last weekend, when we celebrated our 11th anniversary at the Hart House.