Replacing One Type of Pain With Another

I just got off the treadmill.  I’m tired.  I’m in some pain.  I’d like to go to bed, but it’s morning.  I’m tired.  Real tired.  But, underneath all of this exhaustion, I feel alive.  I feel more alive than I’ve felt in a long time.

It’s good to feel ALIVE!

I just (slowly) completed a seven mile run.  80:32 was my time.  I used to able to run more than ten miles in that time.  No longer.  I’m older, I’m slower, and I’m hurt.

I’ve been hurt for so long that I don’t know what it feels like to not run (or walk) (or often just stand) in pain.  I have interstitial tears in my right Achilles tendon.  I’ve had these tears for years, but they’ve gotten worse this year.

Last year (2018), I played on two softball teams through the pain.  I also ran (very slowly) the New York City Marathon through this injury.  At various times I have announced myself fully healed, but when I do that, I am only lying to myself.

The pain got unbearable this past April two days before I was going to run a marathon relay with two of my best friends.  I finished a training run, an easy 3 1/2 miler and found that I could barely walk.  I tired to convince myself that I could run through the pain in the race, but I knew I couldn’t.

At times the pain in the Achilles is so much that it wakes me up at night.  It’s not fun.

Still, with rest, and ice, and such, at various times this spring and summer, I was able to play some softball and baseball (as a pitcher) through the injury.  Through the work of my outstanding chiropractor and my new orthopedist I’ve been able to fake my way through this injury, but the truth is that the orthopedist says that surgery is 65% likely.  Going under the knife is in my future.  The only question is when…

After missing much of the baseball and softball seasons, and not running at all for much of the late spring and early summer, even the orthopedist told me to try running, slowly, on it.  Before he does the surgery, he wants to see how my Achilles responds to the various treatments from both doctors.

I am 51 years old.  I missed most of the season as a softball player.  I see and feel myself slowing down as a ballplayer.  (I also haven’t played a healthy season in a few years which might be a big part of this.)  I don’t know how many years I still have in me.  To watch a game from the sidelines hurts.  It hurts emotionally.  I love playing ball.  In some ways, I live to play ball.  Because of this injury something very near to my heart was taken away from me this year.  Missing the game hurts.  Letting my teammates down hurts.  Knowing that the end of my career is (very) near hurts.  (Some readers might say that I brought all of this on myself by playing through the injury.  They are correct.  But not playing last year or the year before would have also hurt.  I just don’t know how to give in.  I push myself as hard as I can in every way.  That’s how I’m programmed.  It’s how I live.  I don’t know another way.)

A little over a month ago, with the encouragement from my orthopedist I tried slow jogging with walking breaks – a minute “on” and a minute “off.”  I was told to go a little longer each time I tried this routine.  Once I was able to do that for over an hour, I started to just skip the walking breaks.  At my last visit, I told the doctor that I was certain that I could jog and walk my way through the New York City Marathon in November.  He didn’t say that that was a good idea, but he didn’t say “No!” either.

So, my newest plan is to try to run only a few times a week making sure I keep pushing the distance on my long runs a little farther and farther.  My long run prior to today was five miles.  Today I hit seven.  With my next long run, my goal will be ten miles.  With this type of improvement, I should be able to get in good enough shape to run the big race in November.

I figure that if I don’t destroy the Achilles in training or during the race that maybe I’ll just get the surgery after the race.   If I destroy the tendon prior to that, well, then the decision will be easy…

Yes, the runs hurt.  I wear this hard plastic brace on my foot and ankle to prevent much movement there.  I think it works, but it isn’t the most comfortable thing to wear on one’s leg for hours.  The ice I wrap around my Achilles after the runs also hurts.  I think running is fun, but none of this is.

So, why do I do it?

Part of it is because I love the New York City Marathon.  As I have written many times, that race that is part of who I am as a person.  I can’t really explain it more than that, and I can’t even really explain that.  I have completed 21 marathons, and loved them all, but there is no race that embodies so much of who I am as the New York City Marathon.  I absolutely love that race.

I am running through pain and will continue to run through pain (until I can’t run any longer) because I don’t want to feel the pain and the emptiness that I know will come if I sit this one out.  In some ways, in many ways, that pain, the pain of remorse, hurts even more.

The pain I feel from missing so much of my softball and baseball seasons still bothers me.  It’s been weeks now, but as I watch baseball on TV, I have this longing to be part of the action.  I miss so much of it.  The seasons are long over, but even with the injury I still want to be out there.  I’ll have to live with this pain of regret until next spring.  It’s a long time to carry that longing in my heart.  (I don’t want to imagine what life will be like when I can no longer play at all.  Why do we have to grow old?  Is there baseball in Heaven?  There has to be…right?)

I know that November 2020, next year’s marathon, is a long long way away.  I don’t want to have to live with the regret from missing that as well.

I have always tried to be a man of my word.  In many ways, because of the injury, I feel I let my softball and baseball teams down.  I didn’t come through for them.  I have to carry that pain until next season.

Back in April, I let two friends down because I had to back out of a race we had planned to run together for months.  I don’t like letting people down.

In a similar sense, I gave my word that I would share some inspirational religious stories and preach some sermons at the religious services tent at the start of the NYC Marathon.  I promised that I would be there.  The only way I can live up to my word is to be a runner at the start of the race.  They don’t let non-runners into the starting area.  Just for that, I need to be there on race day.  And If I’m going to start the race, I darn well plan on finishing it.

Replacing one pain with another…

Right now I plan to suffer through physical pain of training so that I don’t have the emotional pain that comes with quitting.  I have enough of that right now.

I’m tired of letting people down.  That’s just not my way.

So, I’ll push, and push some more.  If my Achilles lets me, and if my doctors can keep me from falling totally apart, I’ll be covering those wonderfully glorious and painful miles in New York in November.

From there, we’ll see what happens…








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