Taking a Break

I’m taking a break from running, not because I want to but because I have to.

It’s been two weeks since I ran my last long run, what was scheduled to be a 15-miler. I left the house excited about the run but by mile 8 it was clear the remaining miles were going to be difficult. These are runs where I normally don’t stop. But this run saw at least three stops. All of the stops were filled with doubt. The doubt was not only about my ability to finish; I knew I could push myself to finish, but about my desire, my willingness to finish.

When I did finally complete the run, at 12-miles, I felt like dropping to my knees and kissing the concrete of my driveway. It had been quite some time since I felt like this.

My legs felt heavy. There was a twinge in the right side of my groin which suggested a muscle pull. My head could not hold a lucid thought for more than a few seconds. My thoughts raced and were jumbled like a snow globe which someone had just vigorously shaken. An injury meant I could not run. No running meant I must forego my daily therapy session.

As I grow older I expect to insert a couple of rest days following a long run for my body to recover. My mind on the other hand has always snapped back like a rubber band stretched to its extremes. This time it was different. I pushed myself and pushed some more. My running, even after a rest day felt forced. My legs still felt heavy and I felt like stopping. I found myself talking my way through many of my runs. A planned week away from running was what I needed. I felt afraid that I didn’t miss running. The fear stemmed from the fact it may now be more difficult to return to the sport which has always been my therapy.

Thanksgiving day beckoned and I ran the Turkey Trot with my son and 13K others. It felt good to be back on the roads. The twinge I felt in my groin as I shucked my way around slower runners was quickly pushed out of my head. The energy I felt returning to the run made this task easy. My desire to begin running again was renewed but still lacked a little umph. It still felt as though something was missing.

I woke Friday morning and decided a trail run was what was needed. I drove to one of my favorite local hiking spots. The first running steps I took made me cry out in pain as the twinge in my groin was no longer a twinge. I was listening to the story my body told but as many runners will agree, I was not ready to stop. I ignored what I heard. I reached down and felt the area from where the pain appeared to be coming. Nothing. I pressed harder and still nothing. I took this to be a good sign; probably not a sports hernia. I tried running again and again my groin screamed in agony. I pushed through it and a few steps later the pain subsidized to a nagging discomfort. The longer I ran the less noticeable was the pain. I did it! I completed a 10K run today.

I returned home where I showered and iced the injury. As I sat on the couch, streaks of sunshine shone through the window, I again became concerned. My beloved sunshine, the same sunshine which normally leaves my batteries recharged now had no effect. As the time spent sitting on the couch progressed, it began to feel as though someone had pulled a light-weight blanket over my head, my vision only slightly obscured. I felt any amount of energy left in my body rapidly leave. Thoughts raced. Did my depression return? I started my meds again last week…not enough time to notice an improvement. The long gray winters in Buffalo suggest I restart medication just about every year. So why should this be any different? Is it low testosterone? I began to feel guilty. I’m a social worker, I can’t, I shouldn’t feel like this. I quickly brushed those thoughts to the side. I am normal.

Stress at my job continues to increase. I am expected to see 30-patients every week, run the department, complete monthly and weekly reports, supervise a student and a boss who only recognizes when you’re not doing enough. All the while I’m expected to wear a smile on my face because I am the social worker and it’s expected I deal with all of this craziness with no difficulty. The holidays are difficult for me too for the same reasons they are difficult for my patients. Then there are responsibilities around the house as well as my part-time wedding photography business. The economy sucks, jobs are few and far between. The number of patients experiencing increases in anxiety and depression now through the end of January will continue to increase with spikes just before each holiday. I have actually had others ask me, “Why are you depressed?” As if I’m not allowed to feel and experience what others feel and experience! This week I looked forward to the holiday, not to spend time with family and friends but because there is a long weekend.

When these feelings come, they come in waves. I feel like I’m screaming and no one hears me. I feel alone.

I realize I need to take time away from running to heal, emotionally and physically. I will take this time to heal. I will take this time to strengthen my yoga and meditation practice, both of these lacking consistency. I know that lack of consistency is what brought me to the door of depression and when I knocked on that door it was flung wide open.

I am thankful for my family and friends in the running community. They’re thoughtfulness and encouraging comments are more helpful than they know. Today I have accepted the fact I will not be running at least for two weeks. As I said earlier, I will use this time wisely to recharge my batteries through yoga and meditation. I will use both to ensure I monitor those levels more closely to ensure I am not revisited again by injury and depression.


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