I am excited to be running my first half marathon in New Orleans on Sunday, February 24. I will have been training for a total of seven months, and this journey has certainly not been without its challenges. In October of last year I fractured a bone in my ankle and had to sit out of training for four weeks. It was a difficult time for me emotionally and physically, and I had many doubts as to whether I would ever run again. I did return to training and resume my progress in distance and speed. Recently, however, I found myself back at the podiatrist with swelling and intense pain in both lower ankles. What he told me in that office visit has stayed with me since. First, he suggested that I run slower and shorter distances. In other words, I should allow my body time to catch up to my mind. I can assure you, no one training for a race of any kind wants to hear those words. Secondly, and most importantly, he said, “You need to run like you’ve never been hurt.”
Apparently when I started running again post-injury, I was stiffening my upper foot in an awkward attempt to protect myself from further injury. The excess pressure on the tendons caused them to become inflamed. He explained that I needed to focus my attention on relaxing my feet, allowing them to hit the ground naturally. Immediately when he said that, I remembered that during my recovery time, I often wondered if I would be able to run freely again, without fear. Pain can be a powerful deterrent, and fear of pain is even stronger. On my very next run it became clear that he was right. I had to re-train myself to relax and find my natural stride. Throughout that run, he words I repeated in my head as a reminder where his. “Run like you’ve never been hurt.”
As we mature into adults, so many of us carry past hurts in our hearts and in our bodies, causing us to shut down emotionally, or live from a place of protecting ourselves from potential pain. We begin to approach life with awkward tension, steeling ourselves for the next strike, whether or not one exists in reality. I would suggest that the very act of protecting ourselves is a statement of expectation, to which the elements of life can only respond affirmatively.
We have another choice. We can choose to allow past hurts to heal and face life bravely. We can choose to recognize that while pain may come, joy and strength will follow. I love this quote by American make-up artist and photographer, Kevyn Aucoin: “Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices. Today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”
Every decision counts.