Let’s face it. Sometimes, getting out the door for a workout is harder than the actual workout. We always regret missing a workout but rarely, if ever, regret one we finished (so the saying goes). There are few certainties in running, but none more certain that our days are numbered. For some, running becomes a contact sport. A body will simply not withstand the stress of the foot meeting the ground. For others, the fall from glory can be far more abrupt and catastrophic. Sure, a stress fracture or an overused knee may bring you to a halt in a single run, crowding your consciousness with helplessness, but despite all the questions clouding your running future, you know, deep down, you will run again.
Thankfully, the other end of the spectrum is less prevalent, but by no means equally severe. Running is insignificant when dependency builds, your goals transition. The placeholder for obtaining a PR is now substituted with independently standing from a chair. Where qualifying for Boston transforms into negotiating your front steps.
Working in a medical field offers more than job security. I’m fortunate enough to help amazing people every day. It’s not just athletes either. While some patients are looking to toe the start line, some are simply seeking independence. Accidents and disease strip function from otherwise healthy individuals. A patient with Parkinson’s will pull you aside, pleading for help. He simply wishes to gain more function to lessen the burden on his wife. Others plead for relief of dizziness or back pain to care for their family or to return to work. When you’re a physical therapist, you’ll spend more time with your patients than most clinicians. You get to know your patients, learn who they were or plan to be. It provides unmatched introspection. Self-reflection grooms into the ultimate realization–some day, whether it’s sooner or later, we’ll all lose our ability to run.
We’ll never know how it’ll happen, either. Will it be a debilitating condition like Parkinson’s or Alzheimers? An accident? Slow deterioration with age or some jackass driving drunk? Although the answer is uncertain, you can be sure about one thing… we will lose function and inevitably the ability to run. We just hope that the extent doesn’t extend beyond those boundaries. Running is put into perspective every day for me. For others, it’s likely less often. Every year friends or acquaintances are victims of negligence, accidents, or a diagnosis. Drunk drivers strip a cyclists in training every year. For others their own body wages an inner war. For the victims, families, and friends, running can be the least of their worries. Without a doubt these instances force us to question our own mortality. A drunk driver could strike us, our own body can attack itself–none of us are immune. You can only hope to to learn, appreciate, and remember. Time is known to mend hearts and fade memories. Fight it. Learn to love the smallest and seemingly insignificant aspects of life. Appreciate what your body can accomplish. Remember what it means to have your independence and how a seemingly insignificant task could mean everything to you tomorrow.
Rather than viewing this as a glass half empty post, do just the opposite. Use it to fuel your fire. Use it to silence demons who bargain for a missed workout. Those same inner demons that convince you to cut a workout short or hit the snooze button. Remind yourself that someday, whether it’s tomorrow or in 50 years, you’ll want nothing more than to lace up for one more run. Keep everything in perspective. Running may be a large part of what defines you, but it certainly isn’t who you are.
Use a run a week to be introspective, a way to evaluate your freedom. Reflect on your independence and function. Be grateful. Be humble. Run with a smile and enjoy your independence. Eventually, all of us will want nothing more to wake up early, trudge through in climate weather, or race until complete exhaustion.