I opened my eyes to the blue sky above. My body didn’t scream at me in pain, that was a good sign. I lay on the dirt for another few seconds collecting my thoughts.
I didn’t think the fall off the horse I was riding on Easter Sunday would impact me as much as it did. I got up from the fall, washed off my bloodied elbow, hopped back, nailed the jump the next time, and finished my lesson. It was my last one before the modern pentathlon regionals in Atlanta the next weekend.
I woke up Monday morning feeling okay and was at the track at my usual 5am. Not ten steps into the run I was done. Each time my foot hit the ground pain shot through me, radiating from my tailbone. I’ve run a half-marathon on a bulging disc but this, this was different.
Injuries don’t stop me. Never have. I can gut through them. Until now. I had five days to recover before the pentathlon. And I would.
Until I didn’t. This wasn’t a movie or tv show. This was real life and I had to miss the event I had been training for. I had another week to recover before Ragnar Atlanta Trail. Surely I would be fine by then.
Only I wasn’t. For two years I did every event I said I would and in two weeks I had to miss two. On April 16th, twelve days after my fall and a few hours before my first Ragnar teammate would start their run, I ran two miles. After those miles my tailbone was throbbing in pain but I was happy.
I ran two miles. Two days later I ran three miles. Then I ran five miles. These were different miles than I had run in a long time and it took me a minute to figure out why.
It’s because I was just happy to be running them. I think I forgot what it was like to run without expectation. Before we knew about negative-splits, fartleks, and progressions we ran. We ran, then we ran a little further, and we just kept running.
I’m all about numbers and stats and regimented schedules (to the point of its probably unhealthy, but I’m working on it!). Every run has a purpose. If I miss a split that I was told to hit I would be mad at myself. I don’t give myself grace on my “off” days, I shouldn’t have “off” days. There’s no excuse.
And when I bounced off the ground on Easter morning none of what I just wrote mattered. I couldn’t run ten feet. And for a few runs I forgot about all the stats and numbers. I truly enjoyed the run, being able to run.
I will always be a numbers guy. I will always push myself. But being laid up for two weeks has reminded me its okay to run for the sake of running. To run without any purpose other than just enjoying a run.
When was the last time you ran without purpose? If you’re like me it’s too long. I won’t let that happen again.
Until next time, “Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.” Julie Isphording
This month, Mark is dedicating his running and biking mileage to Girls On The Run of Middle Tennessee and donating $1 for every mile ran and 10 cents for every kilometer biked. You can check out his progress on Strava and make your own donations to Girls On The Run here.