I first started running when I was kid, about eight or nine years old. My dad, a runner, would take me out for a 2K loop around our neighbourhood, then drop me off at home and go back out to finish his run. I was on our elementary and high school cross country teams, and competed in the 400m on our high school track team until I injured my knee in Grade 10. I had serious patellofemoral pain in my right knee, which the doctors said was from growing so fast. I think it was also from overpronation, because every now and then I get that shooting pain up the side of my right knee, and I’ve definitely stopped growing.
I always resented this injury because it meant I had to quit running. I was also an avid dancer and had to choose between the two. I had been dancing since I was four years old, and there were other girls who would be let down if I quit in the middle of the year. I chose to keep dancing and gave up running. I had big dreams to be a competitive runner; to join a track club and have the sport be my life. It broke my heart I had to set those dreams aside.
I would try to run in university, and would eventually tweak my other knee – an injury which I only found out this past summer was and totally common and curable. But for almost eight years leading up to that discovery, my running game was choppy because I could only run if my knee said it was okay.
I was so relieved when I learned that I could heal my iliotibial band syndrome through strengthening, massage, foam rolling and stretching. I was so grateful that it wasn’t something more serious, something that would require surgery or bench me from the sport I’d been trying to get good at since I was a kid. Throughout June and July 2017 I tried to run two or three times a week. I never ran more than 6K at a time. I often alternated running and walking when I felt that familiar pain in my knee. But rather than get down and angry at my body for not working the way I wanted it to, I started to thank it for doing what it could do.
At some point during my runs, I took a moment to say to myself, “Thanks, body, for being so strong for me today. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to run this far.” It sounds silly, but it felt so good to acknowledge what my body was doing for me. It improved my mental state (while running and after), and I really do think that it helped my injuries heal faster. It is incredibly rare that my old high school knee injury flares up, and with continued work on my IT band, I can now log 60K weeks.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t take your body for granted, even when it falls apart. Be grateful for this body, for the legs that can carry you through forested trails and along race courses. Be thankful for what you have, what you once had, and what lies ahead.
Meaghan Archer is a writer, runner, and yoga teacher based in Penticton, B.C. She’s currently training for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, and will run the Chicago Marathon in fall 2018.