“I Run Because I Can” ~Wendi Kelly
The quote up above was my mantra when I slowly but surely crossed the finish line of the first—and so far only— marathon of my life. Slow, slow slow, and plodding, I actually had a friend walking beside me as I jogged my stubbornly steady steps to run my race that friends and family said shouldn’t be done.
When I was fifteen, I fell off the un-even bars at school and hurt my back, an injury that has caused permanent damage. An injury that has— at various times—disabled me to the point of painful walking and even a few times of not being able to walk at all. Back pain is a familiar foe, but one I take on daily.
So one day, I decided that I was so grateful that I was able to beat this back monster on a daily basis, that I was going to start running,in fact, I got it in my head that I was going to run a marathon. Just because I could. Just because there are so many people in the world that are so much worse off, so much more unable than I, so much more challenged, without even the choice to DO battle with my back. I realized how lucky I was and I wanted to celebrate my gratitude by running a marathon.
The first day I went out to run, I learned humility very quickly. I lasted exactly one minute before my lungs reminded me that my back had a partner in crime…asthma.
I had forgotten about that.
So I started out with baby steps. One minute of running, then one and a half…then two..three…almost a month went by before my first mile. I celebrated loudly. When I ran five, it was almost unbelievable. When I hit double digits, I began to wonder who this woman was and how she got into my body. I couldn’t believe how far I’d come, how much I had grown. I began to believe I was a real runner.
At seventeen miles…doubt set in. I panicked. Friends pitched in to help me with my panic. They reminded me that I have degenerated discs, a broken vertebra that never healed properly, asthma…and they cheerfully reminded me of every other malady, including my age. They—out of love and concern—told me I had no business out there.
Who did I think I was? What ever made me think I could do such a thing?
I suffered an identity crisis that lasted through miles 17-20. I never ran those miles. I was too scared. But then…a part of my identity that has never been denied launched out of my spirit and took hold. The stubborn part. The part that can’t stand to back down, the part that hates to quit, the finisher. I ran the race— because I could.
Right Now I Can’t
I’ve been sent back to the Beginning. In August, I got into a spat with my bike—and to spare you the details, the bike won. Since then, I’ve been on a journey of healing that has included a big plastic boot, lots of physical therapy, a tight brace and a long list of prohibitions that includes all forms of running. I think about that saying,”I run because I can.” Well…I can’t. And it will be months before recovery is strong enough for that to occur again.
It’s a funny thing about losing your freedoms. The truth is, I haven’t been running all year. But…I knew I could. Now that I can’t, it hovers in the back of my mind, a need, a desire…a mission…a reminder that I lost something that was a touchstone to me—to remember to be grateful for all that I have, all that I have been given.
I can’t wait to run again.
Why, oh why do we wait until things are taken away from us before we remember how much we love them, how much we appreciated them, how hard we worked to have them? Why oh why do we let things that were such a victory, such an accomplishment just slip away?
Of course, it isn’t just running. We all do it, we do it all the time. We create a goal, we work hard…maybe weight loss, maybe building a business, maybe writing a book, maybe starting a hobby….and we take the steps to get where we want to go. We stand on the top of the mountain, we celebrate, we claim our victory and then…
It slips away. And only when it’s really gone, do we slip out of our coma and wonder how we let it drift away.
Here is the thing. I know how to get it back. And so do you. Not by picking up where you left off. That is too overwhelming and keeps us from ever starting over. But by starting where you can—with Baby Steps— it becomes manageable and it becomes immediate.
I can’t go out and run a marathon. No way, not happening. But….I can do my physical therapy. Then I can build up my strength. Get my calves and thighs strengthened with lunges. I can improve my cardio. I can focus on growing where I am planted for now.
And when the time comes, I’ll be ready to run because I can.