When It Hurts Too Much To Run

Normally, running is my escape, my stress relief and my joy. In April I discovered this isn’t always the case.

In April my 17 year old daughter Emily, who was studying abroad in Germany for the year, was hospitalized for three weeks. (You can read part of that story here.)

During those weeks I spent with her in Germany running hurt too much. Life hurt too much.

The first week my husband and I tried to run twice, going about five miles. Five miles is my favorite maintenance distance, an easy distance. But it wasn’t easy. My heart hurt. My side hurt. I started hyperventilating. I had to walk.

After running 100 miles per month year round, this didn’t make physical sense but our bodies aren’t just physical. We’re emotional, mental, spiritual AND physical beings, with everything inter-connected. Stress and worry made running impossible and my body said, “no.”

I still needed exercise but something less strenuous. So we walked and biked. It was about 10 kilometers to the hospital from her host family’s home and Germany is much more bike friendly than the good ‘ol USA. Almost every day we either biked the 20 kilometer round trip or we got a ride or rode the bus one way and walked back. 

When Emily was strong enough to fly home we arrived four days before a 12k I’d registered to run with my 11 year old son. Still jet-lagged I ran with him, amazingly just a few minutes slower than the pace I ran last year. I can’t say I enjoyed the running part of that race and I was sore for several days, but I loved being with him after three weeks apart. 

Since then I’ve resumed meeting my running partner twice a week at 5:30 AM, I’ve gone on a few solo runs and I ran the Windermere half marathon, since I’d already paid to register.

As always, the partner runs are a wonderful outlet of camaraderie and support. The half-marathon was good to do and to my surprise I managed a confidence-boosting 6 minute PR.

But the solo runs are still hard. I used to let my thoughts wander on the run, processing the ups and downs of life with each stride and breath. I craved a couple of those runs each week and always ended ready to tackle life with gusto. Now I have to keep my thoughts on a short leash so they don’t run away into worry and frustration. As I’ve learned, that makes me hyperventilate.

Emily is doing better, especially now that she’s home, but life looks different. It’s like a mudslide took out the road she had mapped. It took out the road I had mapped as her mother. As she blazes a new road it may resemble the old road but we are all forever changed.

It’s going to take a lot of runs to get my body, mind, and spirit back in sync. It’s going to take a lot of runs before I can see the new road. But I know what the run has done for me and already, like a friend, it beckons with a promise. It whispers that if I just put one foot in front of the other, I’ll fly again.

More importantly, so will my daughter.

Have you ever lost the joy of running?

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