I started running four years ago. I made steady progress over the years culminating with running a respectable 9-minute mile in the Baconfest 5K in November.
Then I broke my right ankle, and it all stopped … but perhaps not forever. After six months of healing and physical rehabilitation, I’ve started jogging again, albeit very carefully. Unlike the me of six months ago, I have pins, screws, and a plate in my ankle. The ankle itself is stable, but all of that helpful — but unnatural — metal can cause strain on the bone during high-impact activities.
Activities like running.
I’ve talked to a number of people about my desire to run and my internal debate about the risk involved. A few of them — mostly runners — asked the question: Do you love running?
It’s a great question.
I’ve thought about it a lot, and it turns out I really do love running. I never thought I’d say that — 30-year-old me would think I’m nuts — but I truly love it. I enjoyed the challenge of getting to where I was. I enjoyed the thrill of evading virtual zombies. And I liked that I could just run whenever life was getting too insane. Running is one of the best ways I’ve discovered to burn stress and I miss it terribly.
That said other exercises — like swimming and biking — that are safer for my ankle. After spending a lot of time thinking about it, I’ve come up with a reasonable goal: I want to be able to jog.
As a coach, dad and, well, human, I want to be able to jog across a baseball field during a practice. I want to be able to jog to the car if I’m late. I want to get the full range of motion back in my ankle, which is something jogging can help with.
The key word here is jog not run. Jogging is lower impact than running and accomplishes my primary goal — get moving again — without undue risk. My physical therapist is confident I can get back to jogging. Heck, he’s confident I can get back to running too. I have a low-impact regime (involving running on carpet, then grass, then finally solid surfaces) to get me there. I very much want to get there … but as much as I’d love to finally run an 8-minute mile, I think that chapter of my life is closed. It’s far more important to be to be able walk to work, go hiking with my family, or backpacking in Philmont with my son. Those are things I don’t want to lose because I got stubborn and decided to beat my 5K time at Baconfest.
Jogging is going to be hard — the physical therapist already warned me that the muscles and tendons in my foot and ankle are going to hate this. He was right; my first 5-minute run felt great, but I was sore afterward. I was also smiling from ear to ear.
I’d love to be able to say I’m going to get back to where I was … but that’s impossible. Instead, I’m shooting for a decent echo of the November 2017 me … and that’ll be good enough.
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Relaxing on the football field at a nearby college after my first 5-minute run since breaking my ankle. Credit: Ken Newquist