Started From The Couch (And Now We’re Here):
Active recovery– or as my family practice doctor called it “you have to start moving before you can start feeling better.” I promise we’ll circle back in another post about the accident but for now, I’d like to skip ahead a little bit to the “I’m out of the hospital, now what?” part of the story.
I learned when you are unable to do anything, you quickly prioritize the things you need or want to do. I recuperated at home after the accident desperately wanting normalcy— to make dinner, to go to work, to spend time with friends & family. Something this traumatic had jarred me out of my own head; personally it’s easy to get ensnared in abstract achievements, social media, professional networking, or whatever. This means that while laying on my couch during those first few days out of the hospital, I made a promise to myself to do more things.
“What if I like, you know, ran a 10k?” I said to Anthony. I was propped up on the couch so I could watch Parks and Rec, not yet able to walk around much or even make myself a sandwich. “Not a 5K, I already know I can do that. And not a half marathon, I don’t think I could train for that in time.”
“In time? In time for what?” Anthony said, rather incredulously.
“I think the KC Marathon races are sometime in October.” I said, cutting him off before he could protest. Anthony was staring out the window and I could see him barely containing a heavy sigh. If I mention something as an “idea” I’m already 85% of the way to registering for the race and it’s better to get out of my way.
I get it, how do you go from being a barely functional human after a car accident to running a distance race a few months later?
Well, you start one mile at a time.
My first mile was on a hot, humid Tuesday evening. I jogged from my house, through Rockhurst University’s campus, to Go Chicken Go and back— then threw up in my front yard. I waited until Sunday and tried for 2 miles but only made it to 1.5 miles.
That was the core of how I trained: Run, max out distance on Sundays, then add a mile from the week before for the next week’s distances weekday runs. Try to run with other people at least once a week and add a new song to my playlist too. Keep going, keep it fresh and then go a little more.
I zigzagged through my neighborhood. I schlepped my way through Rockhurst and UMKC’s campuses before a long downhill descent on Paseo towards my house. Once I ran on a lonely Friday night as the sun set over Loose Park, chilling the air in a way that reminded me of hunting with my dad; the wooden smell of the trees, the way my breath hung in the air a little too long in the dusk. One night I ran in a downpour with new friends as lightning threatened to crackle over North Kansas City. All we did was laugh as we rolled into Resting Spirits for a post-run martini.
Finally I ran my last Sunday long run: several spins around the big loop trail around Loose Park that added up to 5.9 miles. I had this mental picture of race week being 5 days of calm, then a happy-go-lucky day of running 6.2 miles in sunshine.
I was wrong.
Race week was bananas. I was busy at work, then on top of that we had sewer problems. Did you know there isn’t an essential oil that masks sewage smells? I couldn’t fall asleep, meaning that I only got 4 hours of sleep. It only rained during the race, turning into a downpour at the start and end of the race. (It rained so hard at the end that my Bigfoot hat stopped absorbing water, it ran down the bill like a tin roof on a cabin.)
I write this not to complain but to stress the importance of training. Running is a mental sport as much as it is physical. While training I’d acclimated myself to miserable conditions: I ran in the rain, when I was exhausted from work, on trails that were mostly uphill, & when I’d rather be marathoning Schitt’s Creek.
Everybody wants to know what they can do. This often points us to focus on achievements that build off who you think you should be. I learned I could measure myself by going from being couch-ridden to pushing myself beyond my self-determined limits. The very first time I ran 5.25 miles I broke the sound barrier of what I thought I could do. It’s not enough to project to the world that you’re strong– it’s more valuable to feel truly strong.