Monday, February 15, 2016

The Comeback...

The two miles went by swimmingly. I hoped this was a portent of things to come. It was just two miles, but it felt right.
I felt connected. I felt in control. I felt in command again.
It was running as it used to be. The shoes handled well. They encouraged me to be dialed in.
They demanded that I pay attention to every footstrike, every breath, and every mile. All of it counted and none of it could be ignored.
I could ill afford to be sidelined again for an extended period of time. I didn't have that luxury. The window was closing. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but I could not ignore the sand in the hourglass.
I wouldn't always feel spry. Running six-minute miles wouldn't always feel easy. I was keenly aware of my mortality and how fortunate I was to still be able to do it.
I would not take it for granted. I was not promised another mile. Each one that I was lucky enough to have would be savored.
My new ride opened my eyes to all I could be doing. The little things mattered. Sheer force of will and mental toughness only gets you so far if your body simply won't comply.
I needed to associate more with the act of running. Screw the heart rate monitors, apps, and gadgets. I needed to run like a Kenyan.
I needed to feel my way. I would listen to the messages my body would send me. I would listen CLOSELY.
Each step, each breath, and each mile provides data. This data can be used to stay upright, to surge, or to dial back if the stars aren't aligned.
Any time I hadn't trusted my gut in life, I'd gotten burned. So, trusting my gut to guide my running was an easy decision. I was evolving or perhaps evolving by devolving.
I was doing this in a measured, gradual way. Changing or evolving can be painful. This is particularly the case if you do it quickly. We evolve gradually. It's how we're built.
So, I built. I built gradually, progressively, and methodically. My mileage climbed, but in almost a glacial, imperceptible way. I worked on my feet. I strengthened my calves.
I paid closer attention to the little things. I listened to my body.  Rather than charge ahead despite yellow or red flags, I stopped. I listened. I learned.
Then, I took a step forward again....carefully. Then, I took another. The steps added up.
The evolution continued. The foam roller became a friend. Massage became a staple, not an indulgence. I treated my body like a temple. Well, aside from the occasional cheeseburger, beer, or glass of wine.
I was willing to a point. But, I was still a caveman. I was still a persistence hunting knuckle dragger who enjoyed a feast after slaying the beast.
My first running Renaissance had been glorious and short lived. I qualified for Boston. I broke three hours. I ran a 2:45.  All of this was done within a two-year span.
I even briefly indulged a pipe dream that I could somehow, someway get my time down to an Olympic 'B' qualifying time. This was greatness.
This was the greatness Tom had seen. It's what I told myself. It's what I wanted to believe.
As the miles added up, I began to wonder if lightning could strike twice.  Could I get back in the ring? Could I rise from the ashes like a Phoenix?
I had to think my evolution at least gave me a shot. It would at least get me back to the starting line. At least, that's what I wanted to believe.
It happened before. It could happen again. I would become the dark knight of running.
I would shake off the rust, work out the kinks, and avenge. I would not be denied again. Woe would befall anything that got in my way.
I would be smarter, shrewder, and cagier. Youth might not be on my side. But, experience would be. Wisdom would be.
The year ended and for the first time in a long time, there was hope. I had hope my changes were the right ones. My gut told me they were.
But, admittedly I was venturing into uncharted territory. I wasn't sure where I was going. This was a new journey for me.
But, I needed to find out what greatness was left in me. Was it spent? Could I delve deep and find a little more?
I was willing to do whatever I had to in order to get answers. I didn't want to leave anything on the table. I didn't want to find myself down the road ever wondering.
This would be the ultimate disservice.  As Steve Prefontaine once said, 'to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.'
I had been gifted. I had sacrificed the gift. I had taken it for granted.
No more. The gift would be cherished. It would be cared for.
My gut told me I still had the gift. No heart rate monitor could tell me. No device could confirm it. But, I still believed.
The question was when to hunt next. I believed I was ready to reap the rewards of my evolution. But finding the right time to strike is an art and a science.
I didn't want to just run another marathon. I wanted to bend one to my will. I wanted to notch the personal best I had always coveted.
What was the point of evolving? What was the point of coming back? What was it all about if I didn't dig as deep if not deeper than I ever had?
I found myself gravitating towards the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton who 'endured' despite being plagued by every hardship imaginable. I had broken my hip from running. I'd been derailed for nearly three years from plantar fasciitis.
But, I would survive. I would endure. I would overcome just as Shackleton had.

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