It felt a touch surreal, much like the fanfare of a wedding does after all the months of preparation and anxious anticipation. And at the same time there was a tentativeness, an uncertainty, as though I was seeing a lover again after a prolonged separation. What would it feel like? Would my hip be ok? Would I be unfit?
As it turned out, my first run after eight weeks felt wonderful. It was only on the treadmill, at one minute easy jog intervals. I did another treadmill run after two days, then my first outdoor run, on my usual route, yesterday afternoon.
I didn’t expect to feel quite so stupidly excited, but as I rifled through drawers looking for my neglected armband and cap, I kept shouting “I’m going for a run! I’m going for a run!” And as I headed outside, strapping my iPhone to my arm, I felt a familiar feeling well up deep inside me, bubbling like a spring, and then it gushed out as I put one foot in front of the other and started…running. It was joy. Pure joy.
The first thing I noticed was how fast I was. I wasn’t even trying to run fast, because these are little test runs, going a bit further each day, always checking to see how the hip pulls up. But Runkeeper kept telling me I was running way faster than my previous race pace at most intervals, and my overall pace, even with stopping to walk every 90 seconds, was the same as before I stopped running eight weeks ago. All that crosstraining on the bike had paid off. I also barely broke a sweat, and again I sent a silent thank you to my faithful friend the spin bike for helping me maintain my fitness over the eight long lonely weeks in the gym.
The second thing I noticed was how great it felt to be outdoors. Those first two runs on the treadmill were ok, but oh what a difference being outside ! I noticed the crisp breeze on my cheeks, the branches of the trees silhoutted against the fading blue sky, the birds calling as they flew home to nest. I breathed in the softness of the Spring air. And my ears drank in that gravel-crunching sound, the sound of my sneakers on the track, that tells me I’ve come home.
So I ran, all of 4.3km, stopping every minute and a half for a brief walk. My hips felt great. They still feel great this morning. My brain was bathed in the familiar cocktail of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. Happy juice. At times I felt tempted to pick up the pace and keep running. But something told me not to be too cocky, and to risk undoing all the patient and good work I had done.
I changed my registration for the Melbourne Marathon from a half marathon to a 10K. I have five weeks. Ample time for a 10K. I have a tiny hope that I might be able to train for a half marathon in five weeks given my fitness has stayed the course and my pace has improved. But we’ll see. In the meantime I’ll be out there, three days a week. Crunching gravel, listening to the birds, and drinking in joy. And feeling grateful, so grateful for every single opportunity to do what I was born to to. Run.