Hello Road. I’m Back.
It was that feeling in the deepest pits of my stomach, the kind you get about thirty seconds before something pretty crazy intense is going down. I’ve swirled in the tension at the starting line of the big races before, but it was never anything like this, and surely never at a 5k. It wasn’t whether or not I was fast, I already knew I wouldn’t be. Even though I hadn’t run in almost two months, there was no concern about whether or not I could run the whole way. There wasn’t any concern of whether or not I could keep up with my running partner for this race, my nine year old stepson and always determined Daniel. One way or another, I was sticking with him. Even if IT happened. Even if my knee finally gave out completely.
It was the downhill just twenty feet after the starting line that concerned me the most. Any runner who’s done some distance will tell you running downhill is not so kind on the knees, and even worse if you’re already injured. Fortunately, I’ve been doing my daily stretching exercises to help this thing heal, and it feels better all the time. In fact, I’ve barely noticed any twinges of pain this week, that was until, of course, the night before the race. Gently walking down the stairs, a sudden a shot of slight pain surged into my knee, and I stopped on a dime. This wasn’t good. At all. I was not ready to run this race anyway, but my daughter Kaitlin, Daniel’s original race partner, had gotten sick and the congestion was too much for her to run. Melanie, my wife, was running the 10k, and she was going out with our 11 year old, Josh. I stepped in to give Daniel his shot at 5k glory, and improve on his first 5k he ran just this past Spring. In that race he fought cramps and they were tough on my nine year old buddy. This time I wanted to help Daniel to finish and experience a race not riddled with pain or exhaustion. Only an hour before the race started we decided I would run with Daniel, but I never thought this race would start on a downhill.
The fear of permanently injuring my knee consumed my mind as my breathing quickened. With the extra pounds I’ve put on since Reach the Beach in September, this decline would be even more dangerous. There was no way around it, though. I was running out of this start with Daniel. Fear wouldn’t stop me.
The tall man in the Turkey Outfit screamed “GO!” and we were off. In just seconds I began my descent, very gingerly landing on my right leg. I held my breath with each step, but there was nothing. No pain. No soreness. Nothing. My right leg knee felt as strong as my left, and as I came to the bottom of the hill, I knew I was going to be okay. And I was.
In the end, on a perfectly healthy knee, Daniel outsprinted me up the final hill and across the finish line. We both finished just under 28 minutes, for a sub 9 minute pace per mile. What a great kid! He ran the whole way, battled a couple of tough cramps, and finished strong. On his terms. And I finished this race feeling great, knowing another adventure is about to begin. By God’s goodness and his grace, I can run again.
Where we go from here even I don’t know. But I’m running again.