On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This is going to be long. Sorry.

I can't write deep posts that make my running sound like something more than it is.  Trust me; I've tried.  It's laughable.  As deeply as I love running, I can't take myself seriously enough to generate much more than light-hearted comedy.


Friday, my revised schedule called for me to do a tempo run.  Two mile warm-up, 5 miles slightly slower than 10k pace, and 1 mile cool down.  Easy-peasy.  Thursday night, I had my twice-monthly do-gooder sexual assault/domestic violence crisis counseling volunteer shift. At midnight, a victim came to the ER, the ER called me, and my night of sleep was shot.

I don't mind doing this.  However, it's a difficult thing to do, and frankly I'm not sure how much help I am in these situations.  But when a victim/survivor shows up at the ER, in crisis, they're not thinking straight.  Whether I can be an emotional support or not, I can definitely be an informational support and a liaison with the hospital staff, who are nearly universally overworked and exhausted.  In cases of domestic violence, there is a lot of logistical planning involved: where will the survivor go? how will she get her stuff? how will she avoid the perpetrator, who is often her partner and the father of her children?  With sexual assault, there are also a lot of questions: does she want the police called? does she need protection against pregnancy or STIs? does she have a support system in place to handle this?  And, of course, there's also the rape kit. I don't perform it, obviously, but I stay in the room with the survivor (if she wants me there).  Some women we see have never had a pelvic exam before the rape kit.  Other women, despite the well-trained and sensitive nurses who perform the exam, describe it as feeling like a second sexual assault.

After I've spent several hours with a stranger, watching her cry and listening to her most intimate details, I find myself at a bizarre crossroads of exhaustion and alertness.  The point being, at 4am Thursday night I finally left the bright lights of the hospital to head home, file my report, and go to sleep.

I slept for 3.5 hours.  I had a 9:30 appointment I couldn't miss, and I left the house at 8:30.  So, the run was pushed to the evening.

I dragged myself through my morning appointment, ran several errands, made it to my 11am library appointment, and worked until they closed at 4.  Then, off to the NYRR to pick up my 5th Avenue Mile bib and back into Harlem for my CSA.  There was lots of kale in this week's produce.  I hate kale.  The next 20 minutes or so until I got home passed in a blur, and suddenly I was lying awake on the couch, sweating in the unseasonable heat, and several hours had passed.  I must have taken a nap.

In a haze, I realized it was after 8pm.  The gym will close soon!  I threw on gym clothes, downed a glass of Nuun, grabbed my headphones and headed out the door.  I could still get 6m in.  Keith Morrison was on Dateline.  I settled into a slow, easy pace.

I watched some '80s New Age videos during commercials and silently bemoaned not having been born 5 years earlier - those New Age guys were androgynously hot.  The first mile passed quickly with none of the usual treadmill ennui.  One mile into the run (no time for a two mile warm-up), I cranked up the speed some.

Around 1.5m, I noticed something.  Just a twinge of something.  By 1.75m, it was unmistakable: it was my leg pain.  It was back.  I hung on through 2m and then I got off the treadmill.  I don't think the pain is back for good, but I think I've found the culprit.  The treadmill.  I went home, I iced, I had dinner, and I tried not to beat myself up for essentially missing another run.  I felt the pain on Saturday, but not as bad.  There it was again on Sunday, but possibly less still (and I'm, of course, paranoid).

It's time for this to stop.  I don't have two weeks to take off from running and then another week or so to come back timidly and test my leg.  I don't have the time or the energy or the money to spend on twice-weekly physical therapy and foam rollers and compression socks anymore.  I'm done with shin splints.  Done.  I will run this marathon.  I may not race it, but I will run it and I will do it pain-free.

There are things that are within my control: when I do my volunteer shifts, for instance.  When I run, where I run, how far I run.  Then, there are things that are out of my control: who I will meet during my volunteer shift and what happens to them when they leave the protective environment of the hospital.  Also out of my control:  injuries, like shin splints.  I am not going to be so crass as to analogize my running to my rape crisis work.  There is no analogy.  But it puts things in perspective.  I am lucky.  Each day that I wake up and I choose to run or choose not to run, I am lucky.  Shin splints are a minor setback.


  1. Really impressed with your volunteer shifts! And, you're right. Doing that kind of crisis work really puts things in perspective. You're lucky to run and to be a runner. And the shin splints...well, I have shin splints troubles; I know what you are talking about. It hurts and i feels like a major setback every single time.

  2. well said, Tracy. It could always be much worse, even though I know you're frustrated with the shin splints. We have only a little more than a month to go, and you can do it! Just be smart and take care.

    I think it's amazing you do that kind of volunteer work - it must be so hard.

    and, BOO to kale. (I'm seeing my heme today and will let you know what he says re: gen lovenox!)

  3. yes, its amazing that you volunteer as such. honestly, amazing.

    yes, shin splints suck but as we all know its getting to the start line in one piece that is important. and you WILL get there!!!

  4. awesome message - so important to keep perspective. we all lose track of it sometimes.

    and i LOVE kale - try it in smoothies or oven baked with tamari - kale chips rule!

  5. You know, at this point in time missing a run is better than redeveloping an injury. You can run that marathon, even with missed runs. You can't run it with a flared up injury. You made the right choice.

  6. As someone who was raped last Wednesday I can tell you that, had I gone straight to hospital, I would have really appreciated someone like you being there. I know you might feel useless or like you don't know what you can do, but please remember that for the woman who has been raped, having someone there whose remit is purely to support them, is invaluable. Thank you for doing this work. I would have found it so helpful.

  7. Thank you for your comment, and I'm so sorry to hear what happened to you - and also that you didn't have an advocate there with you. The fact that you are able to write about what happens to you is a step forward as you transition from victim to survivor.