This month, I was reminded that it is never too late to run again. I have been worried about running again for quite some time. I used to love it, but after many injuries, I didn’t think running was for me anymore. My time had passed, in other words it was too late to go back.
It is crazy to think 5 years ago, I was on a track team. I ran and jumped competitively and for fun. Fast forward to now, I couldn’t even think about running a mile. It’s been so long. I couldn’t pick back up where I left off.
Returning to the sport made me queasy. Part of it was shame. I wrestled with what I used to be and what I am now. As for the other feelings, they were negative. I soon realized that getting back to running was like restarting my fitness journey over again.
Have you ever wanted to go back to something but didn’t think you were able to?
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I didn’t think I could do it
My belief in my abilities to run waned. It happened over time and my belief became my reality. Back then, I was running for something– to compete, to win, and to play. Now it would be to be fit and healthy. Running for exercise is what got to me. That in itself is intimidating! To begin running you have to simply do. But it is not that simple, at least not for me.
I felt like running meant punishing my body. Besides conditioning, running was a method of discipline and punishment. I vividly remember my coach yelling, “Take a lap,” whenever they caught me goofing off or not paying attention. I also remember the feeling of having to vomit after the first day of cross country practice.
The thought of “the first run” terrified me. I would have to face the reality of being Unfit and Out Of Shape. And like I thought, my first day was excruciating. I wanted to quit so bad, but I continued through the pain and the “monkey on my back.”
As you can see, I needed to change my mindset. I have to admit, I didn’t want to run ever again. Why? Because the first run is always the hardest. I was avoiding it like a child avoids green vegetables.
Facing the pain and facing the fear
In the Fall of 2017, I was diagnosed with chondromalacia. It developed from a MCL tear and tibia fractured that I had in 2015 from an impact injury.
Unlike most of my injuries, chondromalacia has been difficult to recover from. This injury has nagged me for the last 3 years and has halted my athletic pursuits.
Luckily, physical therapy has helped me see a glimpse of full recovery. If it wasn’t for PT, I don’t think I could get over the pain in my knee and the fear of never healing. Coming back from an injury is mental gymnastics. And coming back from surgery is double jeopardy. I had to balance both.
Unfortunately, knee surgery for chondromalacia is a hit or miss. Mine was a miss! Shortly after my diagnosis, I went under the knife. I have never had surgery before but I had high hopes that surgery was the answer. It wasn’t.
September of 2018 was the last time I ran. Three years off and many failed attempts. I was stuck. My right knee was constantly on fire. It was frustrating and upsetting. I had done everything right in recovery and I still could not do what I was born to do! In 2018, I got rid of my basketball and running shoes and I faced the music. I thought I would never run again.
The road to recovery
After unsuccessful physical therapy, in January of 2020 I finally found the perfect therapist! I’m not going to lie, this rehab center wasn’t fancy. It was small and a bit homely looking, but my therapist was a rockstar.
His therapy technique made the world of difference. For 6 months, he worked on my hip’s strength and mobility by doing hands-on therapy. His technique made a tremendous difference in my pain levels. I could go weeks without pain.
In July, 6 months later, my therapist gave me the ‘OKAY’ to run again. So, for the past 6 weeks, I have been on a beginner’s running regimen.
I have literally felt ALIVE. Of course, I’m not as fast as I was. I’m slow, but I’m committed. Every time, I set foot on the trail. I say to myself, “Vianka, finish.”
Last week, I was able to do my first ever 30 minute run. I wish I could tell you that my 30 minute run was amazing and all my wishes came true and I was pain free. Truth is, my run was demoralizing like I thought it would be. I wasn’t prepared for chest pains and for the nausea.
My muscles were tight of course. My joints wobbled down the trail in old age fashion. After the first 5 minutes, my muscles warmed up and the pain uneasiness released from me. And I kept going.
I wasn’t running very fast, but I was finally doing it!!!!!!! I did find the hope that I was looking for.
My goal was to complete the run. I didn’t care about pace, time, or distance. I just wanted to get it done and be proud that I finally finished.
6 weeks of consistent running was paying off. I had been working up to this and just realizing what I was doing in the moment was the cause of a smile. Of course, I contemplated quitting after 10 minutes, but I continued on. I had something to prove myself.
I proved to myself that I could do it all along.
What does it feel like to be back?
I have a mixture of feelings, but I feel hopeful the most. The fact that I can go back to doing something that I thought I would never do again is great relief.
I was so worried about not being good enough instead of focusing on the good that I could do.
It doesn’t matter that I’m slow. It also doesn’t matter that I can’t run a mile in 6 minutes. The only thing that matters is that I finish.
My biggest advice to anyone who wants to start running again is to start and DO NOT FOCUS ON THE NUMBERS, FOCUS ON FINISHING.
I hope this story inspired you to get back at something you loved once again.