I missed running. I didn’t know how much until now. I’m just back from a run, my first in 24 days. On my last run, I had to stop after three minutes. I could barely breathe. Days later, I learned that I had blood clots in my legs and my chest. I stayed in a hospital for three days and left with a pile of blood thinner medication and the words of a doctor not to exercise for a while.
So that stopped me. It stopped me not only from physically exerting myself but it also stopped me from thinking about running. I put it all out of my mind. I focused on my legs, my heart, my breathing, making sure I did a kind of internal body check-up several times a day. Everything was stripped back to the basics of being able to live.
My run today, then, is a step back to reclaiming something lost, or maybe even it is reclaiming my life. I didn’t have a euphoric moment. I ran for 25 minutes. I ran slower than normal, half the distance of my short daily run, consciously checking on my breathing. Was I breathing too hard? Was my chest contracting? Was that slight pain in my leg a sore muscle?
But when I finished, I felt a trickle of sweat twist and turn from under my running jacket and flow down my right thumb. I opened the door of our house and called for our dog, Juluka, and she knew what that meant; she shook her nine-year-old legs and bounded out the door. I ran around the block with her, tossing a tennis ball ahead of us so that on first bounce she could leap and snare it, and she did, again and again.
We stopped in an open area under pine trees. I stretched. I felt the aches of calves, of my lower back, of my shoulders. My hair was damp at the edges. Then I walked back into our house, took off my running jacket (which was wet on the sleeves), fed the dog, boiled water for black tea, and thought for a moment about how the pieces of a carefully constructed life are coming back. I really missed running.