Discover more from Western Coffee
These last pre-race days have raised up a challenge: After a long season free of significant pain, I have a sore knee that’s not recovering between workouts. It’s some consolation that this ailment is known as “runner’s knee”—at least I’m not alone—but the timing is exquisite.
A previous me would have been on the doctor’s table this week getting an injection of steroids or painkillers, desperate for them to work so I could run confidently. They would probably not work. My frustration would mount. I would book a specialist or two and line up physical therapy to pass the weeks before I could see them. I might decide to skip the race.
But there’s only one playbook that has worked for me when it comes to soft-tissue athletic “injuries,” which I’ve written about before. It goes like this: Search yourself for hidden stressors. Confront your psyche, the mediator here, directly and aloud. Ask it what it’s trying to tell you. And keep up activity, avoiding needless aggravation of the pain but offering it no surrender.
Over the years, this method has worked on every corner of my body. It worked when everything else failed. It is the only reason I’m a runner.
Maybe my efforts will not ease the pain enough in time for me to do the whole distance. But my assumption is that they will. My assumption is that I will be not running on Sunday so much as swimming in feeling, because in running I have found the highest-throughput processing mechanism I know of for fear, anger, sadness, grief, and joy. Running is where, eventually, these feelings are felt and freed. It sometimes drives them to an intermediate place before that happens, and that’s how I account for my knee.
I had a goal pace, and there’s been a sweetness in letting that go. Nothing to prove. If I do cross this finish line, it will be a reminder of what every finish line is, every time: extra. An extra node in the mortal mesh. Can you imagine running for hours through New York City, thousands of people lining your path to yell out your name in celebration? Even if it happened, you’d never think it belonged to you, that you had any title to it. It’d take everything you had just to believe your eyes.
Thanks for reading Western Coffee! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.