There’s this romantic notion that long distance running, with its miles and miles of mesmerizing solitude, is an awesome opportunity to be alone to your thoughts, to clear your mind and to find yourself. I haven’t yet covered the serious mileage to confirm if that is true or not, but after better that two months of training for the marathon I have come to the conclusion that I clearly prefer the group training sessions to the calm and quiet of solo running. That’s just my personal preference, and because I am now truly enjoying running as a means of getting healthier, perhaps somewhere down the road I will enjoy the peace and tranquility.
For now I’ll take the chatter.
My two favorite things thus far about marathon training are the willingness of people to support me both with encouraging words as well as their pocketbooks as they donate to the World Vision cause of raising needed funds to bring water to Africa, as well as the camaraderie of my Los Angeles Road Runners training group.
Allow me to address both of them separately, the first requiring a guilty admission.
For my friends and family out there who have given to the cause, I truly thank you from the heart.
I have gone a little overboard with the fundraising aspect of this journey, as it is the first time I have participated in such an endeavor, and because I know it is such a good cause I want to raise as much money as possible. But I have to confess that raising money – even though it is not for me – has become a source of pride and arrogance. I see the total raised to date and I am impressed. I see the total raised to date and I want to raise more. I see who has donated and I wonder about the friends and family who have not.
And for all of that I am deeply sorry.
I am sorry that I have not been simply overwhelmed by the generosity of so many and awestruck by the support and dedication to the cause by all. I feel rotten about it. Obsessing about perceived bad and completely overlooking so much good is unfortunately a character flaw that I haven’t been able to shake, but I’m working on it. The bottom line here is that so many believe in the cause here and have felt compelled to give that I am absolutely staggered by the support, so thank you all for what you are doing.
To my Road Runner brethren I owe a great debt of gratitude as well, as the words of support and enthusiastic shouts of encouragement each week get this tired old body to the flag poles and back every Saturday morning.
There’s no denying that we are a somewhat ragtag group of run/walkers assembled at Venice Beach every Saturday morning at 6:15, many of us first-timers and nearly all of us nursing some sort of injury. But through conversations, jokes and continual encouragement we not only cover the ever-increasing mileage but we are conquering fears and overcoming adversity along the way.
As I sit here grinding out these few hundred words I have to get up every couple of minutes to stretch out a balky, sore back, the result of a stupid decision and some prideful reluctance.
About a month ago I attempted to get a sleeping Trevor out of my car, and if know me and have seen my car you know that is not a good situation. I’m a very tall man with a surgically repaired back and I drive a Honda Accord. The Accord sits very low to the ground, so extracting my large 4-year-old son from the back seat is definitely not good on the back, so you are likely not surprised that I tweaked it pretty badly.
The solution? An easy one: Go to the one and only chiropractor who has ever been able to smooth the knots and untangle the twists of my bad back, Dr. David Pommerenck.
The problem? Pride. Embarrassment. Fear.
Dr. P. preaches one thing and one thing only to his patients: Once you are better you simply need to come see him for regular maintenance appoints, say every two months in my case, to ensure that you stay well. It’s a simple and wise piece of advice, and one that I had followed on a regular basis until December of 2011, when I determined that my back was perfectly fine and that I didn’t need to go any more. The truth be told, my back has flared-up quite a bit since my last appointment nearly two years ago, but Advil and ice packs got me through it. This time around the nightly ice treatments and handfuls of Ibuprofen just weren’t getting the job done, and when you compound the issue with the fact that I am aggressively training for a marathon, well you can likely imagine that I’m looking very much like an old rickety man about now.
So why didn’t I immediately dial Dr. P’s number for immediate relief? Well, because it had been so long I knew that I would be getting a lecture about not keeping up with my maintenance appointments, but that would be pretty tame. I think more than anything I was starting to feel like a world conqueror, someone who could overcome it all, and like the arrogance I was feeling as the result of raising some funds for Africa, my awful pride was getting in the way of any wisdom seeping through my thick skull.
But I was in serious agony and needed some immediate help.
Another Saturday was rapidly approaching, and it was to be a 12-miler…
I sought relief through acupuncture, which had provided some stealth recovery from my aforementioned back surgery years ago, as healing was slow in coming. The needles and therapy got me back on my feet like some sort of miracle drug, but this time around the acupuncture therapy seemed to have the opposite impact, as the pain increased rather than lessen, and following another round of treatments Friday afternoon I awoke Saturday morning at 4 AM about as stiff and sore as I’d ever been, and prospects of a 12 mile training session seemed daunting if not impossible.
I’ve perhaps never been more focused during a training run as I was on Saturday.
Following the painful drive from Torrance to Venice, I essentially crawled out of the Accord and unfolded my back. I stretched and stretched and then stretched some more, and before I knew it we were off and I running. About 200 yards out I contemplated turning around and heading back, but I was determined to grind it out, figuring that as long as I didn’t fall or step into any holes along the way I wouldn’t make my back any worse. About five miles out I really loosened up and my back started feeling better, but then every time we got to the walking interval I could feel it start to stiffen a bit, and if we had to actually stop at a traffic light I simply could not stand still and opted to keep running in place. I maintained a steely sort of focus during the run, and as we navigated our way along the greenbelt in Santa Monica with all of its treacherous tree roots and pot holes, I somehow managed to run with more intensity and freedom. I didn’t even think about the pain any more.
When all was said and done we had covered the 12 miles in just under three hours and my back actually felt fine.
Until I folded myself back into the Accord.
I wasn’t quite to LAX when my pride ceased and humility kicked-in. Knowing that Pommerenck Chiropractic was closed on Saturdays, I nonetheless telephoned the familiar number in my cell in the hopes that they still had an emergency number. They did! By the time I hit El Segundo I had Dr. P. on the line, and he immediately agreed to meet me at his office, and the lecture that I feared was coming was short and simple: “Don, one of these days you’ll learn! I’ll see you in a half hour.”
That was it? No huge guilt trip? Nope.
The diagnosis is that I have a pinched nerve in my lower back. The pain is actually radiating into my left hip socket, and my mid back, because it is compensating for everything that my low back cannot do, is also pretty sore. Dr. P. adjusted me and then placed me on the traction rollers which brought about instant relief. He sent me home and asked me to ice it for 30 minutes and see him again Monday morning before work.
Not only will he see me Monday morning: He’s gonna start seeing me for those pesky maintenance appointments on a regular basis again. You can teach an old dog new tricks.
So my pride was exposed quite a bit these last few weeks and I’m actually thankful for the experience as it has reminded me that humility brings about character and a closeness to God that prideful, sinful man simply cannot approach.
I’m not happy with the predicament that I’ve gotten myself in to, but I’m excited to see what God is going to do with it.