It was only going to be for five minutes.
I've been sidelined from running for a month after straining my hip flexor (due to an almost ludicrous number of bodily issues including but by no means limited to high arches, ultra-tight calves and hamstrings, and the kicker-really weak butt muscles). I've kept up my five times a week trips to the gym and have worked really hard to ensure I consistently kicked my ass in the cardio department so I might still be able to run the 10k in April. But I was a dutiful patient and stayed away from the treadmill except to walk on it (ugh how I hated that, because every time I walked on a treadmill, that gym girl, you know the one, the one whose makeup and hair alway looks perfect and who sweats without ever looking sweaty, would plant herself on the treadmill next to mine, and immediately begin to run at such a high pace that I was seriously worried she would fly off). I did everything but run. I've gone to physical therapy twice a week and have spent an additional hour each day doing the strengthening and stretching homework I was assigned, to try and force this awkward, unruly body of mine into some kind of submission.
And finally today, I saw my sports medicine doctor and was given the go-ahead to begin some light running. I didn't even go straight to the treadmill at the gym. I spent 40 minutes puffing and huffing for breath on a machine which I use four times a week and which I still do not know the name of (X trainer something or other?). And then, with legitimate butterflies in my stomach, I headed to the treadmill. I was nervous that it would hurt, that running would be taken away from me again. I was nervous that I would be horribly out of shape and run for a minute and then collapse into a heap. But more than anything I was nervous that it wouldn't be the same, that taking a month off would have turned me back into the person I was a year and a half ago, the person who thought running was the devil's sick joke on silly, silly humans.
I turned the treadmill up to 5mph, a nice, light pace, and with my brand new kicks, Brooks shoes that are supposed to support my arches and stop my feet from flopping all over the place (I now know I have my arches to thank for multiple sprained ankles and possibly a broken foot as well, thank you very much arches, you do all that and yet you still cannot make it easier for me to wear high heels?!), I started to run.
Oh it felt good. It felt really, really, really good. So good in fact, that when I reached the 5 minute mark I had designated as my stopping point, I kept going. I knew my physical therapist might yell at me. I even knew I was pushing it. But I couldn't help myself. I was running again and even though it had only been a month it had felt like years. 7 minutes passed, then 9, and finally at 10 I forced myself to stop running.
I type that sentence, forced myself to stop running, and still marvel at it. A year and a half ago it was the opposite. I only ran when forced, if I needed to flee from something or catch someone, maybe if there was some sort of sale on shoes. I wasn't a runner. I mocked runners. I thought they were clinically insane. And yet here I am, a year and a half later, and I am admitting to the world that I am a runner, a clinically insane person who runs just for the sake of running. My body will never be a runner's body. It will probably break down and cause issues many times, because my body somehow escaped the whole survival of the fittest thing and managed to not be suitable for any kind of vigorous activity without a massive effort to change its true nature.
But it's a part of my life now. And that makes me happy, because I know I'm healthier and because I have a new hobby and all that, but more than anything it makes me happy because it's solid, concrete evidence that a change has occurred in my life. We don't get that often. Sometimes it's almost impossible to believe we can change, because most change is small and subtle and hard to pinpoint. But here's something tangible and solid that I can point to, and say, that was me then, this is me now. I'm different.
I like that. I like change. I like knowing that the boundaries in my life I think are firm and immovable can actually be dismantled and rebuilt to look like something new. I like knowing that I have the capacity to surprise myself.
I like that what I thought was a weakness was really just a blind spot. And as soon as I began to test it, it turned out it was just like a muscle, weak because of disuse, but capable of building and strengthening. I think so many people go through life content to think that they are full of weak spots. But really they're just too afraid to test their own strength.
The thing about strength though is it's not there until we test it. It doesn't even exist until we test it. Testing ourselves, pushing ourselves, challenging ourselves, that's what makes strength. And no matter who you are or what your situation is, I guarantee that the moment you begin to push yourself, you'll find that strength and it will surprise you. It surprised me.
It still does. Every step I took on that treadmill today, every time my foot hit the ground, every breath I took in, every exhale that left my body, was a surprise, a little reminder of the change I spent 24 years of my life believing was impossible.