Running Sucks

It does. It really truly does.

And I miss it. Because I’m not supposed to do it anymore.

Once upon a time, I thought I could be a good runner. Not Flo-Jo good, but passable.

More than that, I ran voluntarily. Shocking, yes. It was in middle school. I wrote about this in That., and I feel like it is not at all a spoiler to admit I was bad at it. Still, you should go buy the book and read that chapter anyway.

When I was growing up, my dad was a runner. He competed in 5Ks and I thought I’d try and train with him, so I’d go with him to the school near our house and run laps. I remember running alongside him, following the chainlink fence, reading the green signs that told us how far we had to go to run a mile. It seemed extraordinarily long. But at the end, when we were in the home stretch, my dad would yell, “GO! Run, girl!”

And I would.

I would pour it on like some potential kidnapper/murderer was chasing me, and it was amazing how much gas I still had left. I had a pretty decent kick at the end and it deluded me into thinking maybe this could be some athletic endeavor I didn’t suck at unlike A) soccer, B) racquetball, C) swimming and D) four square.

I had my far-from-illustrious middle school career and then never sprinted again, except when we had to run lines in high school tennis. Then there was that one time eight years ago when I must have been possessed and tugged on my sneaks after dropping the kids off at school, and I crossed the crosswalk one more time, making sure I told the guards what was up in case I didn’t come back from my jaunt along the wash.

“Right on,” said the young guard, who also happened to teach P.E. at the school.

I didn’t make it back before they left for the day. It was a terrible idea. I don’t know what I was thinking. My feet felt like they were encased in concrete. I was so slow. My lungs burned. The next morning, the crossing guards asked how my run went.

“It sucked. That was a terrible idea — I can’t believe you let me go.”

And that was it for me and running, until I started CrossFit. One of the many ways the coaches like to torture their “athletes” is by running. And climbing ropes. And jumping pull ups. Oh, and these other things called thrusters. They have so many options when it comes to tormenting us.

I complain when we have to do all of these things, but I whine the most with running. My knees began to register their unhappiness with this rekindled activity, and I started questioning whether running is really that good for your body.

“Running is fine,” all the coaches assured me. “It’s bad only if you have poor form.”

This did not seem like a real answer to me, and it was definitely not the one I wanted to hear, so I did what I always do when I want to find proof that I’m right: I went a-googling. Much to my dismay, most websites backed the coaches.

So, I decided to show my protest through — how else? — fashion. My favorite, new workout shirt said simply:

And so when forced, I ran. And complained. My knees, especially the right one, continued to throb. Then, it started to swell.

One day, I ran three miles and I could swear I felt bones rubbing against each other. The grinding sound was pretty unnerving, too. My doctor sent me to physical therapy. I did it until I hit my deductible and still, my knee continued to be a son of a bitch.

An orthopedic doctor dealt running the final blow: He said I had advanced arthritis, a tear in the meniscus and a bone spur. The knee trifecta. I ticked off all the things I did at CrossFit and asked him if I could do them: No, no, no. He shook his head. He was most emphatically against running.

That was the day I brought home Justin*. My knee brace. It felt right to name him Justin since my knee was already dubbed Janet** because the meniscus malfunction had definitely morphed into a full-on rip, just like what happened at that Super Bowl.

So now I’m an adaptive athlete.

I’m happy to still be able to be active and I’m trying to be smart about it so I don’t prematurely age my 70-year-old right knee any more, but I feel kind of sad. I actually miss running in this weird, twisted way. Not the act itself but just knowing that I could run IF I wanted. I don’t like being told I can’t do things, especially when it’s because I’m getting older. Every day I feel more and more like Lt. Murtaugh***. Running’s one less thing I can do, along with reading fine print. What they say about aging is really true — it’s not for sissies. I’m thinking there are probably some good jokey T-shirts out there about that, too.

*Yes, the brace is really meant to be Justin Timberlake, but I think Justin Kneeber sounds better.

**Or, Ms. Jackson — if you’re nasty.

***Don’t act like you don’t remember that iconic “Leathal Weapon” line: “I’m too old for this shit.”

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