A Moment at the Crossroads

Running has been the love of my life, and at times torture. My husband and I researched the perfect, new spot to call home taking into consideration lifestyle, weather and running, only to find the running is killing me.

Studies often debate what distance runners think about during the long hours of running. If you have a loud-mouthed muscle screaming with every step you take, I promise it’s all about pain.

Despite this current agony, mileage has crept above 50 miles per week, and plummeted to 30. For sure, this roller coaster training plan leaves a lot to be desired for becoming race-ready.

Last Wednesday, I had finished 1-1/4 miles when I came to a fork in the path. The dirt path to the right cut a peaceful trail through the center of the forest. The path to the left meant 7 more miles of pain. I stood at the crossroad balancing the pain in my right thigh with the week’s total mileage goal. . . my gaze never leaving the path through the woods.

Ailments have come and gone, and come back again over the past few weeks. The thing about perpetual sore is that it wears you down mentally. Athletes learn to distinguish between the miserable pain of sore from the sharp pain of injury, but it is the sore that can become a death sentence.

For beginning runners, sore is enough to make you quit altogether, not realizing it will eventually subside. For the seasoned runner, sore lands you squarely in the land of grey – it hurts bad enough to be maddening, but you know it doesn’t hurt bad enough that you should stop training. Eventually, you have to remind yourself these ailments are self-induced, and. . . there is a cure.

I chose the path to the right that day and reduced my pace to a leisurely stroll through the forest. It was heavenly.

Dudley and I paused to look across the lake at the fall colors.

Realizing Dudley must miss his mountain strolls as well, the two of us hiked the Nat Greene trail along Lake Brandt on Thursday. A sign identified the Piedmont’s wild animals, which thankfully did not include the untethered dog or black bear.

We meandered through the forest, Dudley focused on the cornucopia of smells, and the chore of marking each one, while I focused on ground covered. We found a compromise and enjoyed ourselves immensely. I swore I would not run the rest of the week.

On Saturday morning, I finished the 8-mile run from three days earlier, and decided a mental rest day, or two or three, can be the best tool in your training bag.