November 26, 2015
North Carolina was set for Thanksgiving Day. After successfully and painlessly completing 5ks in Georgia and South Carolina earlier in the week, I was confident that this run would go off without a hitch. To make the run even easier, I wouldn’t have to drive out of state and look for a destination. My host Rebecca had suggested a nearby trail along the French Broad River. The trail was just a five minute drive from the house. After a lazy morning of Thanksgiving prep chopping onions and bread cubes, the sun came out. I made the short trip to the trailhead.
Rebecca was right: it was a perfect setup. Families strolled along the river, fitting in a bit of exercise before the big feast. I smiled thinking about the run and feasting ahead, and then I looked down at my left ankle. I had forgotten the stabilizer. I had been instructed by my doctor to wear the stabilizer during every waking moment of the day for six months but my doctor friend Rebecca said I didn’t need to wear it. I felt that the best answer for me was somewhere in between: I would wear it exercising and ween myself off it during the other waking hours. So, what made the most sense was to drive five minutes to pick it up a home. But I just didn’t want to. It wouldn’t have been a far drive but something in me wanted to go without. Be a rogue warrior. Run “Footloose,” if you will. And so I decided to try. I had been cautious in the month since the sprain but in that moment I wanted to be bold. I wanted to see what my body could do. I found one of my most upbeat indie playlists from a time when I was running, travelling, going out, meeting people, and seeing shows a lot—basically feeling like an escalated, awesome version of myself. I chose that person to run.
The run was beautiful. I hugged the river passing cyclists resting on the banks, a trailer park and Mellowdrome cycle track. The sunshine and warm weather paired with the rusted Appalachian scenery took me back to another trip to Asheviile. The first time I visited Asheville was with Rebecca 10 years ago. It was significant because it was a joyful trip of new places, fall weather, movie location scouting and delicious food and drink, but more so, it was one of the first vacations I took not just to visit family or friends. It was a trip to be, see and experience a new place. In a sense it laid the foundation for 5kin50states. It revealed how much I enjoy planning, dreaming, and fantasizing about a place and then making it happen.
As Asheville memories skated along and the indie hits kept on coming, I thought of my ankle: it didn’t hurt. If anyone saw me running I would be just another runner, not someone wearing a stabilizer coming back from injury. I was slowly, with each step and diligence, coming back from injury. As Rebecca would liberally quote Amy Winehouse the following day: “They tried to make you go to rehab and you said, ‘yes, yes, yes.’” In fact I felt victorious. I realized that the very thing I love about running was the very thing which had brought me back to it when I couldn’t run: hard work, diligence and sticking to a plan yields results. If you want something bad enough you can have it. Sheer will and perseverance do not always pay off in major areas of life such as career and love but they do pay off in fitness. If you do the work you will see results. All of those mobility circles, writing the alphabet with my big toe, balancing with my eyes closed, swimming when all I wanted to do was run and riding the stationary bike watching “Waiting to Exhale” had actually worked. I had willed my way back to running by doing.
I think a lot about what running has given me. It has given me both control and freedom, peace and energy. How is that possible? Because I love it enough. Just the opposite of the Patti Smyth and Don Henley song—which is dead on about romantic love—“Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” in running, love is enough. Simple love of the movement had brought me back to it when I couldn’t run. It brought me back to beautiful Asheville on Thanksgiving 10 years later to visit my friends to experience that same freedom of travel, will, and joy-seeking escapades that are now a defining part of who I am.
Sometimes love is enough. And on that first day back, running freely, I believed it always would be.