Thursday, November 5, 2009

A New Runner's High

I went for a run this morning.

Well – that’s an exaggeration. Let’s put it this way. I TRIED to go for a run this morning.

When I was in college I ran at least five times a week. My college was in a relatively safe small town so I felt comfortable running at night – just me, my iPod and the stars. The three of us would take off with the stress of my day but by the end of the run the stress would be gone. I like to think that I left it at mile three.

You cannot beat a runner’s high. Really. There is nothing like it.

The summer between my junior and senior year of college I started to have severe pain in my right knee. For a while I just pushed through but eventually it started to affect me throughout the day, not just when I was running. It eventually got so bad that my mom suggested I make an appointment with my doctor, just to make sure I didn’t tear anything.

Turns out I did a little bit more damage than just normal strain. All of the cartilage in my right knee was essentially gone (which meant I was running with bone on bone – OUCH!!) and the strain from trying to run through the pain had actually caused a fluid sack to form in my knee. I asked my doctor what steps could be taken so that I could run again and he said that I really needed to take a break from running. The damage was done and there isn’t a whole lot that can be done to rebuild cartilage.

Side note – my orthopedic surgeon actually used to be one of my father’s students. My dad said that he felt really old when he realized that not only was one of his students a doctor, but also had a surgical specialty as well. I told him that it was just as horrifying to walk into a “new” doctor’s office and realize that he actually remembered me from 18 years prior when I was running around my dad’s theaters in diapers. Sigh … Sometimes it is a small world after all.

You can imagine how happy I was when I was told that the one thing keeping me sane was the one thing that I needed to stop doing. I wasn’t happy and I told him that. He said that he would give me a shot of cortisone and send me home with a knee brace, but that I really needed to take a break.

So I did. And I hated it. A few weeks later I tried to run again and my knee screamed at me. My senior year of college I spent a lot of time taking long walks or on the elliptical at the gym. The elliptical was kind of “eh” but I did enjoy the walks. There was something very still about walking alone for a long time. I didn’t get the runner’s high but I did get something … I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

When I got to seminary I yearned for that runner’s high again. I wanted to get rid of the stress that comes with higher education. I wanted to relieve my headaches. But more than anything – and don’t mock me for saying this – I wanted to be able to say again, I am a runner.

I don’t know. Maybe that is stupid. But who says, I am a walker? It just doesn’t sound as intense (or impressive) as saying, I am a runner.

So fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago: Bruce and I were talking about signing up for the Turkey Trot, a 5K to support MUST Ministries, the organization that I worked with my first year in seminary. We both decided to get back into the swing of things. Bruce has been a lot better about it than I have – so this morning I decided I was going to take advantage of my morning off from classes (and the beautiful fall weather) and go for a run. I wish I were lying when I say that less than five minutes into my run I start to feel the familiar pang right below my knee cap. I knew that pushing through would be a bad idea; so I slowed to a walk.

At first I was really disappointed. What is more exhilarating than a long run on a beautiful fall day?

Well – how about a long walk at a brisk pace where your mind wanders and you feel the presence of God? I found out today that this is pretty awesome as well. Actually – I think deep down I have always known this is true. I have just never been able to admit it. I have just wanted to be a runner. But sometimes we do not always get what we want. I remember taking LONG walks around my parents’ neighborhood – some of my favorites were when the weather was FREEZING, the stars were bright and everything was still. I felt the presence of God in those moments. And I felt the presence of God today as I made my way through the fallen leaves.

When I got home from my walk, I got ready for school and sent Bruce a text message. I told him I was not going to push it anymore, my running days are probably behind me.

So for right now, I guess I am calling myself a walker. But I do not think I am going to limit it to that. I am going to say that I am a person who has discovered and awesome way to spend time with God. I have been given a chance to see creation at its center; I have the ability to free my mind without killing my knees and I have an opportunity to talk through some of the changes that are going on in my life right now. It is definitely not a runner’s high – but I am starting to think that it is something so much better than that.


  1. Absolutely! Walking with God is a greater high than anyone gets from running. Enjoy your walks!

  2. Aw! Great post, girlie! I'm sad about your knee (my gosh you must have a totally high pain tolerance)! I am so glad your walk today was so rewarding and you didn't push yourself and found such joy in today. :)


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