Sunday, August 25, 2013

MY SLICE OF PARADISE

The crickets are chirping and the night air is beginning to cool. Shadows are longer, and darkness sets in a little earlier. Labor Day is a week away. The summer is quickly fading.

Officially, statistically, the summer of 2013 ranks as the worst of my adult running career. Since tearing two hamstring tendons in my left leg on May 7, just three weeks after running a time of 3:04 at the 2013 Boston Marathon, I have run less miles, and at a dramatically slower pace than in any of the past 36 summers. Recovery has been slow and painful. It has been frustrating and humiliating. I have stopped and walked. I have cursed so loudly that it has echoed through the anthracite coal beds that lie beneath the earth in the mountain behind my house. After a particularly slow and painful workout, seeking solace in the completion of lawn chores, I hurled the weed whacker, javelin-style across the lawn.

We runners are, indeed, bipolar. A personal best training run or race renders us euphoric, full of energy and hope, eager to lace up the shoes and get out there on the road again. A failed workout or race, on the other hand, drives us into an irritable state of depression, toxic to all with whom we interact.

Recovering from an injury is like awakening from a Rip Van Winkle-like sleep. The running world has passed you by. You have reverted back to infancy in a world of adults. You question many things. Will I ever be able to come back? Why am I doing this? Is it worth it? Am I driving those around me crazy with my complaining? (We all know the answer to that one!)

So, although most of us love this sport because of the independence it affords us, when desperate times descend upon our running lives, our sanity, indeed, our cure, lies with the support that is around us.

As I writhed in pain, on a sidewalk a half mile from my home, two hamstrings rolled up like window shades, it was my wife, Crissy, and my running partner, Randy Haas, who scooped me up and got me into my car, as I was unable to apply any pressure on my leg. The symbolism of that event cannot be overstated. My wife has been there for me throughout my irritable, frustrating rants. Her support, encouragement, and her incredible ability to make me laugh, have led me through this dark period in my training life.

In my book, "Running Shorts," many of you have read about the 'Cast of Characters.' The aforementioned Randy Haas, his wife, Lisa, Eric Anchorstar, and his wife, Diedre, John and Sue Ausherman, and Mike Dicello, have offered their wealth of running knowledge in an effort to help a fallen training partner.

My children have been terrific, and, as I struggled to, literally, get back on my feet, my dogs, Ruby and Dixie, followed me as we explored our mountain trails.

The vegetable garden was tended religiously, and the yield has been tremendous. My wife and I experienced an electric Dropkick Murphys concert, culminating with an embrace from Ken Casey. We lounged on the crystal sand in Punta Cana, entertained 75 guests at a summer party on our deck in July, and visited my daughter, Megan, in Charleston, earlier this month.

Appreciate every moment we have. Thank those who, in their own way, allow us to do what we do. To be able to slip on a pair of shoes and enjoy the world as we do is truly a gift.

The adversity of the summer of 2013 has allowed me to appreciate everything I have. My father used to say, "What's worth having is worth working for." More than ever, I'm thankful for all I have, and the people in my life.

Enjoy and appreciate, as all of us possess a slice of paradise.