August 19, 2013

Sweet Release

I ran this weekend.

That’s not remarkable but for my giving it up over a year-and-a-half ago, after daytime muscle twitches turned into nighttime spasms. I’d wake from a dead sleep and my nerves were left jazzed enough to keep me up and miserable for hours.

I thought my muscle problems were inflammation related, coming on in earnest at the end of a run-day. So I knocked off running and moved to an elliptical machine, a device marginally less dread-inducing than a stationary bike. It worked well enough for me for a while, but eventually I gave that up, too. Just not the same as a good run. No pull, no want, just work. At least the spasms subsided.

There’s a long story from this point on involving the return of the spasms, x-rays, a chiropractor and then a physical therapist, and finally a neurologist. The end result was a sleep study, a diagnosis of restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement syndrome and maintenance medication. And they worked. Yard work, a day of room painting, no matter. No spasms. No squirming leg driving me to distraction.

I toyed with a few (very) short runs after the spasms were in check and found to my joy that I could still knock out a couple of miles without trouble. No pain, no sucking wind, no sore muscles the next day. Well, not much.

So this Saturday, with nothing on the schedule for me at our shop, I did what runners do. I awoke thinking, “enough.” I’m either going to do what I want to do for-real or I’m not, today. Right now.

I suited up, stretched, walked up our driveway and ran long and free down the road. 5.7 miles, the longest I’d run in years, on hills and flats, through sun and shade, to the end of a three-mile road alongside our home and back. I broke to a walk only for a steep hill when my calf stabbed pain for a couple of strides, warning me of an impending tear under the load of pushing my body uphill at a run. I walked the incline, enjoyed a bit of water and the view, and was off again.

I remember very little of the run itself. I spent the time without music in my ears, just thinking. Running is meditative for me, not in a single-pointed sort of way but rather in a contemplative manner. Aside from the brief warning issued by my calf I never felt the run. I suffered no ill effects later, or that night, or the next day.

I’ve just returned from a shorter run a couple of days later. It’s as if I never quit the habit that began over a decade ago on a lark, when I was bored with other cardio equipment at our local gym and stepped onto a treadmill. I don’t know why, but running clicked for me. I’ve so missed it these past many months.

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue running. A long time, I hope. I see older guys out there, knocking out the miles a little slower than in their youth, and I wonder if I’ll be fortunate enough to join them as I age. For now, though, I can knock out a few miles of my own, slow to a walk at the end and, looking back up the distance covered, think “I did that.”

You are what you do. I’m a runner.

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