Early in December 2014, I destroyed my left calf and right knee in a series of long runs of 18, 21, and 18 miles over the course of three weeks. Then, even though I was in tremendous pain, I waited about another 2 weeks, cutting back my training, trying to heal myself, before I went to see my chiropractor. My chiropractor, the same people that had nursed me through training the last time, who encouraged me to continue training hard, this time forbid me from running. Three days later, I ran a very slow, painful mile.
But for the first time in a long time, it was a good kind of pain. It was the pain that came from nerves that were functioning, from muscles actually firing right, and from legs actually working. It was time to learn how to run again.
It wasn’t until 9 weeks later that I made it back to a 5 mile run. A run that I would have considered easy just 2 months ago was Mount Everest to me. And that is the short story of how my LA Marathon got derailed.
Not being able to run LA on March 15 was a huge disappointment for me. One night it all came down on me, and I wept because I had to face the fact that, not only was a Boston Qualifying time out of the question, finishing the race was out of the question. Starting the race was the question. What is your goal when you have a bib but not a prayer?
By the time race day came around, I had a rough outline of a plan, some very modest goals. I would watch the start of the race at about the .5 mile mark, and then I would hop in when the “full field” came through, joining with people who were running a 3 hour, 30 minute pace. I would run to the 6 mile mark, and then call it a day. And in this way, I turned the LA Marathon into my own personal 10K with 26,000 friends.
The day itself did not turn out so bad. It was hotter than expected, and the race started a half-hour early. The start was staggered. First, the hand crank racers came through, gliding down the hill silently and swiftly, disappearing around the corner. Next, the women elites came through, beautiful and smooth. Next were the Legacy Runners. These were people who had run in each of the 29 prior LA Marathons. This was their 30th. One woman came down the hill, waving one hand over her head, saying, “Good morning!” to everyone. She shouted, “Thank you!” to the police. She brought me to tears. Next, the elite men came through, and I caught a glimpse of Ryan Hall, the American record holder for the marathon.
Behind them came the second pack, the almost elites. I liked seeing them better than the lead pack; they looked like runners to me. People that I could imagine being, if I was just a little more gifted. And behind them was the full field, four lanes of traffic worth of runners for as far as the eye could see. I jumped in with the 3:30 crowd and was soon in flow. I cruised through China Town. My favorite point on the course was the Yamato (Japanese) drummers at the top of the hill in Little Tokyo. The hill was about a half mile long, and I could feel the drums in my chest from blocks away. Or maybe that was my heart. Who can tell?
As I came up on mile 5, my wife, her sister and husband, and their two kids were out to cheer me. My two kids were still in bed. Since this was not for all the marbles, I stopped and chatted with them. Melanie would have missed me otherwise. One more mile, and I called it a day.
I am still without a solid goal for my running. But one thing I do know: I am a runner. And I am amazed at God’s gift of healing. For a while there, three days, the only way to get better was to do “nothing.” As the maxim goes, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Now, I am out of that hole, and I’m looking around for a hill to climb.