Twelve weeks ago I arrived at the surgery center, walking in, knowing that I wouldn’t be walking out, and, in fact, that I wouldn’t be walking at all for quite some time.
When I checked into the surgery center, I told the receptionist that I was there to begin my training for the 2020 New York City Marathon. She smiled and said, “You must be Mr. Semendinger.”
Indeed I am.
I hobbled out of the surgery center on crutches my foot wrapped and in a heavy boot. The surgery was a success.
Five days later, I was back at the orthopedist for my first post-surgery check-up. All went well he said.
Physical therapy began a few days after that. I started going to PT three times a week.
A short time later, the stitches came out. I was soon introduced to the recumbent bike. Soon after I met the Graston technique, or I should say, my Achilles got to meet the Graston tools. That wasn’t fun.
There were more doctor and PT visits, more soft tissue massages, more exercises, more strength building, and more Graston pain.
I didn’t mind the crutches. In fact, they sort of became a part of me. I was on crutches for about seven weeks. Then it was crutches and the walking boot, then just the walking boot, and then (finally) no boot at all.
In the meantime, I did physical therapy as much as I could and also regularly exercised at home.
(Even through all of this, I haven’t missed a day of exercise since July. I find a way, even in pain, to get the job done. A missed day for me is a rare day… I typically miss fewer than five days of exercise in any given year. I once went over a thousand consecutive days of exercise. That’s just who I am.)
A few weeks ago, my wife and I began walking, as we do together in the warmer weather. We usually cover three to four miles on our walks.
Then a terrible virus hit and I had to stop going to physical therapy in person. I began virtual PT over the Internet. My last visit to the orthopedist also took place through computer cameras and a cell phone. The world has changed a lot, very quickly. In the virtual doctor’s visit, because of my progress, the orthopedist said, “At the 12-week mark from surgery, you can begin running.”
Twelve weeks ago I went under the knife.
Today I ran.
Not far, not fast…but today, I ran.
My road to the 2020 New York City Marathon began in earnest today.
My son Ethan, whose been with me through so much of this, first serving as some necessary home support and as my driver before he went back to college, and who is now home, thanks to the virus, to finish out his junior year on-line, came with me as we headed to the local track (which is still open to the public) for the first run in my comeback.
Before heading to the track, I took out my brand new sneakers and put on an old NYC Marathon shirt. Then Ethan and I jumped in the car heading to the unknown.
12 weeks ago…
I went under the knife.
Today, the softness of the track passed under my feet.
My goal today was to just cover a quarter of a mile… just one loop of the high school track. Ethan ran with me. It was special. I am very glad he was there, stride-for-stride on my right as we made the big circle.
It wasn’t easy. After the first curve, the wind pushed hard in our faces. I was breathing heaver than I ever remember on a run, especially a slow and easy run. By the far curve, as we closed the lap, I was breathing deeply, it wasn’t easy…
But I made it. Moments later Ethan grabbed our stuff, ready for us to go, but I paused. I said, “I think I can do another.” For this one, I’d be on my own. I asked Ethan to time me. He counted down, and with the command, off I went.
It felt a little better and it seemed a little easier this time. I didn’t run fast. I lumbered, I struggled a bit. My lungs were heavy. The wind was cold, colder than I thought it would be. Colder than I wanted it to be. My legs, though, were happy. I think they finally felt they were where they should be.
I came around the home turn, closing in on the finish. “One, fifty five,” Ethan said as I ended the run and my running for the day.
I was faster than I thought I’d be. Much faster.
Then it was time for a selfie together, our quick visit to the track over. We’ll be back.
As we walked away, I said, “1:55, that’s about eight minute mile pace. I’m pleased.” Ethan responded, with a smile, “You couldn’t run three more laps like that right now.”
He’s correct… and I wasn’t about to try or find out. The road to recovery is long and a smart runner is a patient runner. I’m going to take this slowly. I’m going to be smart. The marathon, off in the distance, is calling me.
I feel no pain in the Achilles as I stand at my desk writing this. That’s comforting. Very comforting. I guess I’ll go ice the Achilles anyway. It’s what I should do.
Twelve weeks ago my leg was cut open and my Achilles was repaired.
Today I began the long road back.
One day soon, I’ll be me again.