Sunday, February 9, 2014

'I' Is the Loneliest Number

There are many great 'firsts' to be accomplished in our sport. Sadly, today I achieved one of them and I'm not very proud of it.

Last evening I received a text from my running partner, Brian Tonitis. Brian and I began logging miles together in 1978. He is prominently featured in the chapter entitled, 'Cast of Characters,' in my book, Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes. www.runningshortsbook.com.

His text read, "You up for an easy 4 or 5 tomorrow?"

I turned down his offer.

This morning I received a private message on Facebook from Craig Lowthert, another local running mate. We have been running together since the early 1980s.

He asked, "Are you running today?"

I turned him down.

An hour later, another Cast of Characters member, Eric Anchorstar, fresh from a vacation in the Napa Valley, also sent me a text.

His text read, "Hey buddy. Did you run yet today?

For the first time in my 37-year running career, I declined three people who offered to run with me.

My reason?

The dreaded "I" word.

Injury.

Since tearing two hamstring tendons in May, my recovery has been maddeningly sporadic. A week and a half ago, I returned to my physical therapist, who concluded that there is a major strength deficit in my injured leg, and that strengthening the muscles around the tear, which has scarred back together, is now necessary.

When a runner is injured. the Injury, with a capital  "I," drives the affected party into a deep abyss of loneliness. I turned my friends away today because I feel my pace, which seems to be the equivalent of a 300-pound offensive lineman running a 10K, slows them down. An injury makes one feel like a burden to the runners around him.

Injuries make us positively bipolar. A good workout provides a glimmer of hope. When it does, we are all smiles, singing along with our iPod, creating harmony with those who are forced to live and interact with us. A setback, however, plunges deep into despair. Objects get thrown and expletives abound. Family, friends, and pets scurry for cover.

Runners are a family, however. I DID run on my own today, as yet another round of snow covered the roadways. I thought about my running friends, and how the three who messaged me today wished me well. They have all been where I am. They have suffered through injury and illness, and they are still running.

So, now it's up to me. In a few weeks, I will, once again, accept their offers to run with me. I may still slow them down, but, as we've done for each other for many years, I know they'll be there to pick me back up.