Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Run Free

"I always loved running... it was something you could do by yourself,
and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." ~Jesse Owens

I see runners at the park or on the street and I envy them deeply. As I watch them, I think if they needed to get home quickly they could. Or if it was pouring down rain and their cars were a block away, they could race to cover. I think, if there was an emergency, they could be the first ones on the scene or the first to get help. If someone was chasing them, they could get away. they just seem so free. And I envy that. All of it.

I remember back in college when my basketball coach would yell at me to get down the court in a game or to run suicides in practice and I would do it reluctantly. I hated running. I was fast when I ran but I just didn't like doing it. Carrying this big ol' body is tough enough. Trying to carry it any distance in a hurry... well, the thought alone used to make me want to just sit down.

Ten years ago, this August, an ambulance arrived at my home. I was taken from the house on a stretcher, unable to walk or even stand. Shortly after, I laid in a hospital bed with every muscle in the lower half of my body contracted. I was in excruciating pain. Doctors plied me with drugs, trying to relax the muscles and provide some relief. Nothing worked. Four hours later, when the pain finally subsided, emergency back surgery was scheduled.

15 minutes after my surgery, my nurse woke me up and helped me to my feet. Thankfully, I could walk again. But I couldn't feel anything on my left side. The muscle on the inside of my calf had atrophied completely and I couldn't use my left foot. And I could no longer tell when I had to go to the bathroom. Doctors gave my body 18 months to recover. It never did.

Today, I walk with a limp. Some days, it's more obvious than others. I have regained the use of my foot but I still have no feeling in my toes or heel. I joke that you could set that foot on fire and I wouldn't know it. My lower left leg is skinny, unlike the rest of me... And if you are going to try to get my attention by slapping me on the butt, you'll have to aim for my right side. I can tell when someone touches me on the left but there's no sensitivity at all. And, I can't run.

Ten years ago, I didn't run because I didn't feel like it and now... I wish I could. I guess it is true what they say... You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

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