As I eased my sweat-soaked, exhausted body off the StairMaster at physical therapy on Wednesday morning, I was aware of a roomful of eyes on me. I gulped a swig of water from my little purple Nalgene bottle and mopped the sweat off my forehead with the bottom of my technical T-shirt, which was also soaked.
“What are you, a marathon runner?” asked a fellow patient, a middle-aged guy in sweatpants and a cotton T-shirt laying on a stability ball, eying me with what looked like a mix of admiration and disgust.
I paused for a minute while I shook out my right leg, focusing all my energy on tightening my quad so I could walk across the room without limping. At this moment and so many others over the past couple weeks, I felt like a sad shadow of someone who could run a marathon, much less walk rather than shuffle across a room. But the idea that I had just kicked the crap out of a physical activity—*any* physical activity—buoyed me.
“Yeah,” I finally said. “Actually, I am.”
Since Day 1, physical therapy has yielded huge, measurable results, and I almost always leave the PTSAC office feeling better than when I came in. But Wednesday marked the first day that I felt completely comfortable on my knee. I got to add weight or resistance to just about every exercise in my lineup, which has, amazingly, become easier in the six sessions I’ve had there so far. I swapped red resistance bands for blue ones, and blue ones for gray ones, and I am now single-leg-pressing 40 pounds with my right leg—double where I started with 20 pounds.
It was perfect timing, too—I left that appointment and went straight to my second post-operative doctor appointment, at which Dr. Pereles told me I’m right on track to potentially run again within three or four weeks.
“But I’m not even fully walking normally now,” I told Dr. P. He shrugged.
“Yep. That’s normal,” he said cheerfully, without revising his opinion of when I might be able to run again. I’m not a marathon runner again just yet … but I am a runner well on her way to getting back in the game.
With that vote of confidence for me getting back on my running feet by mid-March, I’m letting myself add a few comeback races to the (very-tentative!) calendar:
Earth Day 5K (April 30) This was my first race back after last year’s wrist break, and it was rough. But it was a gateway to better health and faster times, I think this year’s comeback will be a bit easier, since I’ve been able to stay active except for the five days immediately after surgery (as opposed to six exercise-free weeks last year). Plus, the race is practically in my backyard, which kind of makes me the home team.
Crystal Run 5K Fridays (Fridays in April) These are marketed as “the area’s hottest happy hour road series,” and if I’m recalling my own experience from last year’s races, the post-race party almost made me forget how depressing it was to work so hard to be so (relatively) slow.
What’s on your race calendar this spring?