The Return Run

Excitement, anxiety, impatience, hesitance… these are just a few of the thoughts and emotions I had going into yesterday’s run. The run, itself, would be an uneventful, slow five miles. The key word for me here was “uneventful.” That is just how I needed it to be.

For me, it was not an ordinary run. It was a run that would determine if and how my training would proceed for my marathon in May. It was my first run since being injured a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, it was not a long layover (11 days), but that length of time off can feel like an eternity to a runner. Combine being on the shelf with the fact that everyone on social media has been posting their January mileage, I’ve felt a slight sting to my running heart with each mileage total post. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy for those runners, but it was a constant reminder that I hadn’t run.

All of that changed yesterday with an actual run. The first run after coming off an injury is different. When things are going well for us as runners, we just run. We don’t focus as much on what is going on with our bodies. We take a lot for granted; however, during the first post-injury run, every stride involves so many repetitive thoughts and questions:

“How is my XYZ body part feeling?”

“Is that a normal twinge or a bad twinge?”

“Is the pain coming back or is that normally how I’d feel after losing some fitness?”

“Will the pain come back?”

and “Damn, how did my cardio go out the window so quickly?”

That first “Return Run” is exhausting, both physically, and, even more so, mentally. Those questions listed above run through the brain constantly.

Sometimes, it’s clear upon return that “The injury is still an issue” and it is wise to stop the run. Other times, the injury doesn’t re-emerge. This is always welcomed news, but that feeling of relief doesn’t fully arrive until the run is over. Sometimes, that feeling of relief doesn’t arrive until “The Run After the Return Run” or maybe not until a few pain-free runs have been completed.

For me, today is a rest day, so I won’t be completely at ease until my next run is finished. We’ll see. The good news is I feel sore in all the first places. There is hope. If things continue to progress, I know my fitness will return soon.

The return from an injury is a slow, cautious and frustrating process, but if we can be smart and somehow manage “patience,” we will generally find ourselves back out there running healthy again. It is just a matter of when.

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