Sometimes all a runner can do is ride the emotional roller coaster. It’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Saturday morning marked my first run back after more than two months sidelined by a stress reaction in my left foot. Last week, I wrote about how I was managing expectations as I prepared to hit the trails. Now, two runs into it, I’m very glad I took the time to get my head wrapped around the possibilities of how those first runs could play out.
Still, even with my expectations in order, there was no escaping the emotions of the first run back. It was a typical damp, yet beautiful west coast morning. I had been walking and biking a few times on the trails nearby, with the peaceful Fraser River on one side and lush, green plants, and towering moss-covered trees lining the other. Beneath my feet was the perfect surface for coming back from an injury: crushed gravel.
I had a plan and I was going to stick to it, no matter how tempted I was to push a little harder. My run with warm-up and cool-down was peanuts to what I was doing pre-injury– so much so that with the wrong mindset, it might seem futile. But I trusted the plan put together by my physiotherapist, and I trusted that in due time, this would prove to be the best way to come back.
So, off I went. I used the five-minute warm up to check in on my expectations, and to calm my body and mind before taking those first few running strides. Before I knew it, the moment I had been waiting for for months was upon me: I pushed off and immediately there was a sense of relief. I felt whole again. This was the first in a gamut of emotions, thoughts and feelings I had throughout the remainder of the run.
As my foot landed, I felt some discomfort. I immediately thought, “Don’t set yourself back. If this is pain you have to stop.” I quickly flushed through the physical feeling, and emotional response and concluded that it was only discomfort so I carried on.
Shortly afterwards, I moved on to new emotions: disappointment and anger. I suppose I needed a moment to let myself feel upset about not being able to run with smooth freedom. I reminded myself that discomfort was one of the likely scenarios of this first run back.
As all of this was playing out in my mind, the first three minutes of running came to an end and I was onto a walking segment. I used the two minutes of walking to go through some technical details partly to distract my mind from the emotion, and partly because I truly needed to recalibrate my stride and slow down.
When I took off for my second and final three minutes of running, I kept a short, relaxed stride through the three minutes section. I felt tension ease from my foot I let myself feel the joy of running. It wasn’t perfect, but I felt grateful to run again. When those three minutes came to an end, I started on my walk back. I had experienced a gamut of emotions on the first run, but I rode the ride well, and came out determined to come back strong.