It came after the adrenaline rush. A searing web of pain weaved itself throughout my ankle, climbing up my leg. I could have pushed faster, I should have went out at a more reasonable pace, I could have lowered my mileage last week, maybe spent more time stretching, these thoughts poke and prod my mind. You shouldn’t have raced that day, they say.
Miss my first race? That’s funny.
I can recall the breath of the orange groves. The winding paths murmured to me. My thoughts dulled to the sound of swift steps and deep breaths. I loved it. I hated it. You like running you must be crazy. It’s a love hate relationship, I say, we don’t always see eye to eye. But running is a freedom appreciated only when it’s swept out from under you.
It said farewell to me despite our long-term affair. Just like that. Every summer morning, I chose it over sleeping in. Every scorching afternoon, I chose it over refreshing air conditioning. Next thing you know it upright and ditches me.
After the first race, everyone asked me if I’m okay. I nod my head I’m fine just sore. After a week, everyone asks if I’m doing well. I shake my head no. My ankle pulses with pain.
The quiet sky. The cold sound of racing footsteps. I sit there like a stump of a tree under the dark summer sun. See, I’m required to come to practice. Days pass by
slower than the wait for Christmas morning and I slave through practice despite hardly moving and I’m being tortured just sitting here. Why can’t I catch up? They’re leaving me behind. Why can’t I join them too? A mind maddening feeling. I speak in watery sentences, the lake behind the dam is swelling up but I just build more to it.
Next comes the cross country meets. My legs ache not only from injury but from lack of running. I yell my heart out in my cheers, I’m loud as a charging cavalry, but the voice in my head just wants to be there too alongside my team. Soon, I say. That’ll be me soon. Six weeks feel like six months and I wonder if I’m ever going to heal, but that’s silly, six weeks isn’t that long. Six weeks of healing in preparation of years left of running.
Years left of running...that’s right. Time is short. Days begin to blur by. I jog a step. A few more. Those steps turn into a mile. A single, exhausting mile, manifests into a manageable two. I wait still, waiting for my speed, waiting for my stamina, slowly but surely.
Slowly but surely.