In the ancient Greek tradition, heroes succumb to an inflated sense of self before experiencing their inevitable demise. It’s a narrative device that’s been around for thousands of years, perhaps its time for me to pay attention to it.
On Friday, I was out running on Cape Cod’s Trail of Tears and despite having struggled with a troublesome piriformis situation over the past month, I just couldn’t refrain from turning on the gas. The sun was warm, the dogs were in front of me and running hard, beneath my feet were soft pine needles, I didn’t have a care in the world and I felt good.
Over the fire roads and the single track, I pushed harder and harder. I wondered what “too fast” really was. I wondered if I was capable of running much faster than I ever have before. I wondered if, perhaps, I was on the way to a life-altering breakthrough in my next race.
I finished my run with four blistering miles on top of my more reasonable six mile beginning. It was my third speed workout of the week. Saturday it rained all day and because my piriformis muscle was inflamed and I could barely move my right leg forward more than a foot or so at a time, I took the day off. On Sunday, I went back to the Trail of Tears with the dogs and planned on doing an easy two hours.
The first couple of hills went by without incident. I marveled at having recovered so quickly from Friday. I took a steep, sandy downhill and suddenly my right butt cheek lit up with angry, electric pain. Short of breath from the experience, I took a few more steps. “I’ve run through worse,” I thought, but only for a moment. The pain shot down my hamstring and my calf. It raced up into my lower back and burrowed in like an evil thing.
All movement stopped. I was totally incapacitated. My dogs looked at me and saw my pain. Immediately, they sat and waited for what would come next.
A half mile from the car, I turned on my good heel and started to walk. There was no extending my right foot forward, I couldn’t do it. I stepped with my left and dragged my right foot along. It took me twenty minutes to get to my vehicle and another three to get behind the wheel.
Unable to get my mind around the agony, I was late for Sunday brunch. Advil and a little rest finally got me to the table. I sat stiffly with my family, embarrassed by my self-inflicted wound, panicked that perhaps all this recent work has been for naught.
A friend suggested it was the miles. Piled one on top of another, their representative weight had broken my body down. I felt and feel differently. It’s the speed, speed kills. At forty-three, I’ve got no business running fast three times in a week. Once a week, maybe twice every other week but never three times in seven days. The miles helped create the situation, the speed made it critical.
Why did I let it come to this? I plead an unreasonable love for speed. It thrills me, it distorts my perspective, it’s what I chase and strangely, what I need to avoid (most of the time).
I’m forty-three, too old to get burnt by love, too young to be walking like I am today.