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Dying Hurts Living Hurts - Why I Run

This month a variety of situations prompted me to reflect on why I run. There were two injuries - one to my foot after falling down a mountain, and this week my hip went wonky leaving me laid up and limping. When my physical therapist broke up with me the other day, afraid of the liability of my running 31 miles on a weird hip, I got to thinking about the ways in which the world had reacted to my choice to run far and the ways I've responded.

Like most people my body has quirks - I have two herniated discs in my neck and a deformed hip that I had surgery on as a kid that was followed by 2 years in a body cast, and two double hernia surgeries. Since I started running (13 months and 650 miles ago) just about every part of my body has expressed itself to me through pain - my calves hurt, arches, IT band, lower back, hip, pelvis, neck, you name it. It would be easy to interpret what the pain is saying this way, "get off your hip, lay down, rest, don't do anything strenuous and stop running!" It would be easy to find doctors to say these same things. But I am aware that there are other ways to interpret pain, after all pain is a language, our language with our bodies. When my arches, sacrum, IT band and hip hurt I interpret the pain this way, "Hey! We never did this before!!" It is true, I never ran 15 miles before. Did I really expect that after years of lazying about my body would run 15 miles without a glitch?

If if were to choose the story of, "I have a bad hip so I'd better get off it," than in no time my hip will atrophy and eventually it will demand a cane it will be real easy to find a doctor ready to give me one. Many have already offered them to me along with a hip replacement. Recently I got a new MRI and Xray that showed that running had built enough muscle around my hip that it is now being held up by that muscle, thus no bones rub. This came in spite of warnings not to run on it. Perhaps we get the answer we seek? And this is my point. Just look at the number of people zipping around supermarkets in electric chairs. How many do you think need them? What's will atrophy as a result of that choice?

I had to do some real soul searching this week when my hip hurt too much to walk on. I had to choose again. As it begins to feel better today and I see that I'll get through this episode I am happy that I interpreted the pain I felt as my hip waking up, learning, struggling, and then getting stronger. This process hurts. But dying hurts too and I imagine that dying hurts extra when we die from deterioration and decay, from a state of atrophy rather than vitality.

Since I began to run my resting heart rate dropped significantly. People walking next to me alway seem to be gasping while I breathe with ease through my nose. I rarely tire. Symptoms of all variety: fibromyalgia, fatigue and lethargy, hormonal wonkiness and papering skin went away along with excess body weight and signs of premature aging. Mikey and I enjoy the time we spend using our arsenal of massage tools and electric zappers to figure out how to help one another rebound from continuous running "injuries (can't we think of another word for this?)," I think that our culture has skewed in the direction of decay. The pill, surgeon and wheel chair are too easy to reach for. We are too rest ready. I wonder about the impact of living in a capitalist system in which sick people are a billing cycle to the industry of medicine, while healthy people are useless to it. Looked at this way, healthy people don't do their part to grow the economy. This to me is a wake up call to ignite common sense. Our bodies are meant to be used. Pain is not "bad," it is perfect, it is as right as rain.

The Sufis say that suffering is the denial of pain. They also say, "die before you die," referring to the death of the ego that allows for true sight. I'm going to add a slogan of my own, "die well."

Images: an arsenal of massagers and props for hurting muscles, an x-ray of wendy's wonky hip from 2001

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