The Comeback Trail

I dragged myself out of bed this morning while it was still dark, threw on my running shoes, and went for a run. It was both heaven and hell...but mostly hell.  

I had been unable to run for nine months following an ankle injury sustained while running in the Sonora desert last August. I went over on a rock and that was that. Doctors and chiropractors worked on it to no avail. Finally I found a great Osteopath, Pam Ennis. She had me back on my feet in a few weeks and I returned slowly to running.


Boy, am I out of shape! It wasn't like I didn't keep up a fitness regime while I was unable to run – I was in the gym four times a week. The elliptical just doesn't demand the kind of strength and stamina that an outdoor run requires.


So, now I am back outdoors and while it is marvelous to return, it is also challenging. The layoff really shows. I'm up to 50 minutes per run, but a year ago the same distance probably took 45 minutes. My gait is like what you see when an old dog rises unsteadily to meet you at the door. Yikes!


An astute nephew pointed out, "Uncle Pat at least you're still out there doing it." Yes, in a manner of speaking, I am. Huffing and puffing, moaning and groaning...but out there...getting it done...


It occurred to me during one point in the run this morning that it's important to notice what you're noticing when you're on the come back trail. It's very easy to focus on the moaning and groaning, the huffing and puffing, and making comparisons between now and then.


But that's not only counterproductive, it's also demotivating. The past is not always an accurate benchmark of the fresh challenge of the present.


With that insight, I began to focus more on the progress that this run represented from six weeks rather than one year ago. Fifty minutes is nothing to sneeze at when you look at where I started – 5 minutes.


It's easy to stay in bed – but I was up and out before daybreak. That's worth something.


I was able to breathe comfortably throughout most of the run – inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth. Not easy to do even when you are in shape.


No pain at all in the ankle and foot.


A beautiful sunrise over Lake Ontario.


An abundance of migrating birds, including wild canaries. Fragrant late summer wild flowers.


All in all, maybe it wasn't such a bad experience after all? Maybe, experiences are gathered, not imposed? Maybe The Comeback Trail is a really good place to practice self-compassion? Maybe the self-critic shouldn't be invited on the morning run at all?


My next run should be even more pleasant than today. A change in vision always produces a breakthrough.


© Patrick O’Neill 2009. All rights reserved

Posted on August 27, 2009 and filed under Uncategorized.