The Comeback

Allen (in black) sprints to the finish

Allen (in black) sprints to the finish

In late 2005, I had surgery to repair the torn meniscus in my right knee.  A year later, I ran, or rather hobbled, through exactly one race, a 5K in which I ‘ran’ my slowest time ever, 24:05.  I did not run a single race in 2007.

And while I was sidelined by this injury, my running buddies thrived.  Nearly every day, I listened to Todd and Dean discuss that morning’s workout or their recent and/or upcoming races.  It was like a starving man listening to people discuss an all-you-can-eat buffet.  I yearned to run again.

Since I was 8 or 9 years old, I had always participated in sport.  From little league to adult basketball leagues, there had never been a time when I wasn’t actively competing in something.  Until now.  I was devastated.  I tried golf but I was so horrendously bad at it (never sniffed breaking 100) that I did more drinking than golfing. Tee off into the water, drink a beer.  Slice a shot from the fairway into the woods, drink a beer.  I might as well have found a pond somewhere and sat on the bank and drank beer, occasionally wadding up a dollar beer and tossing it into the water – that’s in essence all I was doing.  At least with running, I tended to be somewhat competitive – in most of the smaller races, I oftened threatened to win an age group award.

I started gaining weight and feeling depressed.  Todd and Dean set PR (personal record) after PR.  They were slashing their best times while I was packing on pounds.

And while I missed the daily running and the fitness that accompanies it, what I missed most were the races.   I love the road race – the camaraderie, the festival-like atmosphere, the common purpose, the fellowship.  Running provides for me what I imagine religion provides for others.

So I began running again.  Very slowly at first, and usually on a treadmill.  I bought new shoes and I would run a few minutes, then walk a few.  I jumped a little rope and lifted a few weights.  When my knee hurt, I stopped.   And after a while, I gained fitness and lost weight.  The knee pain gradually lessened until I was running 3 or 4 miles at a time without incident.  I began running outdoors a couple of times a week.  Soon I was putting together 6 and 7-mile runs and beginning to feel optimistic.

In October of 2008, 2 years since my last, and horribly disappointing, race, Todd and Dean mentioned that they were going to run the Lungstrong 15K race in Cornelius, NC.  I signed up too.  And I ran, and the knee held up.  I even kicked at the end to prevent some guy from passing me.   And while my time was nothing to write home about (1:13:36), I ran 9.3 miles at about 7:53 pace, with pretty minimal training.  Boston qualifying for a man in his early 40’s was 3:20:59, or about 7:39 pace.  The dream was reborn.

Todd, Dean, and I chatted after the race.  This post-race chat, for me, is one of the best parts of running.  You grab some of the snacks and drinks (if you’re lucky, there will be beer) available at virtually ever race,
and you get together with your pals and discuss how it all went down.  Nearly every athlete from every sport will recognize this tradition, the post-competition discussion.  I had missed it tremendously and I was thrilled to get to do it again.  I was back!



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