Today, with my toenails painted in Timely Turquoise — how appropriate is that — I toed the blue line for 13.1 miles at the Akron Half Marathon. The blue line is a pretty cool thing. You look down at the road and there it is just waiting for you to follow it all the way to the finish line, whether you’re doing 13.1 or 26.2. Sometimes it mocks you, sometimes it cheers you on, sometimes you wish it would magically transform into a conveyor belt a-la Geroge Jetson and pretty much ride you to the finish line. I mean, we start the race right near the National Inventors Hall of Fame, you’d think somebody would invent a magic blue line. If nothing else, it’s comforting to know it’s going to be there for you all the way through the event.
Unlike years past, I barely trained for the Half. I semi-decided about six weeks ago that I could probably do it as long as I got in a few long runs on the weekends. Muscles have memories — poor fellas, I haven’t given mine the good, the bad, and the ugly — and they seem to know that once we hit six miles, we’re in it for the long haul; there shall be no whining, complaining or requests for potato chips or massages until after we’re done. I increased my mileage and did a few long runs but my times sucked in comparison to past events so I gave myself several excuses: 1) I had surgery on my knee last October, not even a full year ago yet; 2) I’m older; 3) I’m busy and we moved this summer, cutting into training; 5) I ditched my orthotics two months ago and my legs are readjusting to this new non-orthotic running style; 4) the dogs ate my training schedule.
Needless to say, I hit the starting line with expectations so low I was afraid I’d trip over them. Not only was my training somewhat sporadic at best and non-existent at worst, my fan base at the finish line was non-existent, too. Dave was in Cincinnati for a music festival, and even though we have good friends here, I didn’t want to ask anyone to get up at the crazy hour of 5:30 a.m. and hang out for two hours watching a bunch of sweaty runners passing by until I hit the finish line.
But, but, but, there was a beautiful full moon out this morning at 6:00 a.m., the weather forecast was absolutely perfect for a long run, I had my favorite Clif-Shots (Mocha and Razz) in my pocket, and I decided to wear my “This One’s For You, Dad” shirt for inspiration.
It had been an especially stressful week at work and I started the morning with not much in the tank from a mental standpoint. But that was okay because my mind tends to wander on runs. I don’t really think about anything. It’s like meditating for me. I let thoughts float in and out – la la la – and then let them wander away. Really, I wouldn’t want anyone studying my thought patterns in general but I especially wouldn’t want them hooking me up to some thought-reading machine while I was on a run. So I wasn’t even on the run yet when, wah lah, the first weird thought entered my mind. I happened to be in the porta-potty when my very little brain got an idea for a short story — it’s a bizarre idea that has nothing to do with porta-potties, but I like bizarre and apparently porta-potties are a good creative space for me. Who knew! I still had 45 minutes before the gun went off so I trucked back to the car, scrounged around for a pen, and wrote some notes on a receipt from Target that was lodged in the bin on the passenger side door. Thank goodness I’m not a neat freak and have random pieces of paper and pens lying around the car.
Before the gun went off, I positioned myself in the 8:45 pace group. Crazy talk, I know. Thinking I could keep that pace given the lack of mileage I’d put in was ridiculous but whatevs, que sera, sera. And that’s exactly the song that went through my head when I stationed myself behind the pace group; all I could think of was Doris Day…”que sera sera, whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see, que sera sera.” Seriously? This could not be the soundtrack in my head for 13.1 miles. I tried to listen to the music blaring from the stage at the starting line. U2, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson. But Doris was stuck there like gum on my shoe.
Finally the invocation started and the woman who said the prayer is a runner who is also battling cancer. She told us she wished she could be running with us but what she’s learned from running is helping her through her battle and that she had so much to be thankful for, and so did we. It was a beautiful day for running and we were all there for different personal reasons that would get us through the hard miles. I looked at my “This One’s For You Dad” shirt and thought about him and all of the others who have had to battle cancer, no matter if their battles were long or short. I thought of my friend who battled prostate cancer this year. I thought of my sister-in-law and my niece. I thought of my aunt’s twin. I looked around at everyone surrounding me and it seemed we were collectively thinking the same thing, that we were lucky to have our health and be standing at the starting line. There were two bald dudes next to me that didn’t necessarily look like the sentimental type but when the prayer was over, one bald dude tapped my shoulder and said, “Kick ass for your dad. That’s a cool shirt.” You’d think I’d be the one with tears in my eyes, but it was actually him. I told him to kick ass too (which sort of made us sound like we were in a South Park episode), figuring he must have recently lost someone to cancer or maybe had a friend or family battling the “c” word. Or maybe he was just jacked up – emotions run ultra-high at the start and finish.
I didn’t hear the gun go off but the bald dudes were shouting “let’s get this party started.” If someone wanted to study behavioral patterns, they should head to the starting line of any marathon. There’s this whole starting culture and starting language. First you talk about the course and where the hills are, then you talk about how your calf is a little tight, then you move into the weather or war stories about past marathons. And then there’s normally this surge after the gun goes off where you begin a slow jog but the crowd bottlenecks and you have to stop. Inevitably someone — usually a guy — says “well that’s the easiest marathon I’ve ever run” or some variation of that. Har har har. I’ve done six Halfs and five Fulls and if marathons were a genre of literature, they would all start out with a line like that.
The bald dudes continue their conversation about how they couldn’t wait to get a beer at the finish and how they hope their legs don’t cramp up and how they are going to haul ass up the Towpath which is a slow, painful upgrade for about a mile and it’s at Mile 12, right when your quads are requesting the flatlands and threatening mutiny. I hear the word “haul” and now I’m singing “15 Miles On The Erie Canal” and I realize I have no clue who wrote that song. I’m glad Doris Day is gone but good god, can’t I get a better mix in my head? I learned that song in fourth grade and here it was hanging out with me from Miles 1-3. Did Stephen Foster write it? Nah. He wasn’t hauling barges from Albany to Buffalo and he didn’t have a mule whose name was Sal. I had no idea who wrote it but I sang every damn word to myself as we crossed over the Y bridge and circled St. Thomas Hospital. Low bridge, everybody down… Oy. I was tempted to use my iPod but I have a rule (there are rules, people) that I have to run the first six miles without it. Don’t ask me why. Runners make up weird and inexplicable rules for themselves and this is one of my rules.
The good news is, I also got my train whistle at Mile 2.5-ish as we were crossing back over the Y bridge, and that washed away the Erie Canal. For new readers, hearing a train whistle has become a symbol for me. It reminds me of my dad. And this train had a steam engine so there was a huge plume of white smoke bubbling up toward the bridge. Awesome. Speaking of smoke, the bald dudes smoked me as we approached Mile 4 but I kept a smoking 8:45-minute pace with them.
We’re all sort of heading uphill when I notice a wheelchair racer to my right. The guy is cranking but it’s slow going and he is digging deep to keep his arms moving the pedals in front of him. I am always amazed at how incredible these racers are. Out of habit, I say “looking strong, have a good run today” and then I think, OMG, do the wheelchair racers call it a run? Is it a ride? What’s the protocol? I’d insert my foot in my mouth but that wouldn’t be so good for my pace so I scoot ahead just a bit. (By the way, I looked it up when I got home – it’s called racing, not running, not riding.) I worry about this faux pas for the next two miles which keeps my mind off the Erie Canal and Doris Day.
I make it to Mile Seven before turning on my iPod and taking my first Clif Shot which then gets me to thinking just what in the hell are Clif Shots made of anyway but I don’t have the talent to read and run at the same time without wreaking havoc among us middle-of-the-packers. This is about the same time I notice that a timing chip has slipped off of someone’s shoe and is now rolling on the ground. It’s a runaway timing chip and that’s not a good thing at all. We all get our clock time at the finish but the chip time is the accurate time since the chip doesn’t start until your foot hits the starting mat. I turn to go back for it but the crowd is too heavy and how in the heck would I find the person who lost it. I check my left foot. Mine is still there.
The first song that shuffles onto my iPod is Pinball Wizard by The Who. From there I’m treated to massive blasts from the past all the way to the finish line. Here’s the thing: I like me some good, solid rock when I’m running. Harder-driving stuff. I mean, who wants to listen to sissy music like Que Sera Sera when you’re pounding out your tenth mile? Here’s the lineup:
Limelight – Rush
Welcome to the Jungle – Guns n Roses (go ahead and make fun of me – the song is killer for running)
Take Me To The River – Talking Heads
Rise – Public Image Limited (thank you, Johnny Rotten!)
Everywhere I Go – The Call
Superman – REM
Working In A Coal Mine – Devo
She Says (Come Around) – Rave Ups
Take Back the City – Snow Patrol
Spoonman – Soundgarden
Warbrain – Alkaline Trio
Love Removal Machine – The Cult
Renegades of Funk – Rage Against the Machine
Overdrive – Foo Fighters
American Girl – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Fall Back Down – Rancid
Breaker, Breaker – Scrawl
Come Running – Van Morrison (I love Van, he’s my celebration music when I finish a piece of fiction and when I need to go to my happy place when I’m stressed)
Sometime to Return – Soul Asylum
Around Mile 9, I see a dog that looks exactly like my sister’s dog, Gus. Only this dog is more black than brown. And Gus doesn’t have your everyday look. He’s a mixture, a little bit of this and that. I smile and wonder if this is Gus’s relative or maybe this dog was there to give me the pick-me-up I need since the effects of the ClifShot are fading.
So, all is going relatively as planned – albeit slightly slower than usual – until Mile 11 where I hit the wall, also known as bonking, not to be confused with boinking. There is really no time for either when you’re running. I bonked on the Towpath Trail, mainly because I looked up and saw a sign that said 5% grade, meaning Uphill. Drats. Normally, I like a good hill but I wasn’t in the mood for this one. And from the looks of everyone around me, neither was anyone else. Lots of folks were walking, hands on hips, heads down, the telltale stance of a runner out of gas. One woman scrambled into the trees but the way she was holding her body meant she wasn’t out of gas; it meant she had too much of it. She wasn’t trotting to that stand of trees to pee, she had runners’ trots, the one and only running casualty I’ve never been afflicted with. I mean, there is just no mistaking someone with the trotskies. I hoped she had some Kleenex stored in her shorts or maybe she could use her headband if she was desperate. Here’s another thing about running one of these events: you can be running with complete strangers but everyone is in this trek together so essentially you’re running with your new BFFs. You talk to people, you make comments on people’s shirts (mine got at least a half dozen comments today), you talk about how you’re feeling, you cheer each other on, and bodily functions become not only normalized but part of the expected conversation. Those of us who noticed the woman looked at each other and asked if we thought she was okay, should we go after her. An older man said he figured she needed some privacy. Someone else said bummer. Someone else said the woman should be glad it wasn’t leg cramps because those are even worse. But I’m thinking nothing could be worse than the trots.
I turned off my iPod for the final mile because there’s nothing like hearing the crowd cheer you on. It’s the only time you get to pretend you’re an elite runner like Deena Kastor or Meb Kaflezighi. Spectators are the best. They tell you that you look good, you look strong, even though you look like a pile of runners trots and they’ve never seen you before this day (maybe that’s the thing, they figure you always look this bad). They tell you that you only have a little more to go, that there is beer at the finish line (it’s Michelob Ultra but it’s beer and tired runners aren’t choosy about their carbo-reloading). And then you enter the Akron Aeros stadium and hit the warning track. The finish line is just ahead and your little blue toes that are now semi-black and blue from the pounding, give it one final kick. The stadium is packed with spectators, families and friends waiting for their runner but it seems like they’re all there for you too. And when the announcer sees your name, your name gets called over the loud speaker and people just keep cheering. And even if your time isn’t as good as it was in 2007, the last time you ran this very race and toed this very finish line, you don’t mind. What matters is that you finished with your arms raised and a smile on your face.
It’s just about the best feeling in the world.
[Bib#: 14641. Chip Time: 2:04:06 (how’s that for a set of even numbers). 1577 overall. 561 out of female runners. 69th in my age group.]
You could say I’m superstitious. I’ve been known to never wear an outfit again because I had a bad day in it. I don’t walk under ladders and I’m not a fan of black cats crossing my path. I never tell people when I send a short story out for publication because I don’t want to jinx it; I used to only mail the stories from the Newport, KY Post Office but then literary journals started doing online submissions and threw that all out of whack. As did the move to Akron.
In my family, we leave through the same door we came in. I’ve also been known to knock wood and throw salt over my left shoulder if I spill any on the counter. If you don’t know about the salt thing, we superstitious people have heard that the devil sits over your left shoulder and your guardian angel on your right. When evil is lurking about (apparently evil only lurks in kitchens where salt is typically found , no wonder I’ve never been a good cook) your guardian angel nudges your salting hand and spills it. You pinch some between the fingers of your right hand and then throw it over your left shoulder. Take that in the eyes, devil! Oh, and there’s also something about Judas spilling salt at the Last Supper and we all know how that went down.
Anyway, in my most recent episode of superstitiousness, we buried St. Joseph to help us sell our house. If you don’t know about this Catholic tradition, you’re missing out. Old St. Joseph has a mighty big cottage industry going for himself. It’s simple – you buy yourself a miniature St. Joseph statue (though soon I may consider going life-sized with giant search lights and possibly waving clowns given the housing market) and bury him in your front yard. But, but, but you don’t just dig a hole and throw old St. Joseph the Hardest Working Realtor in the World in there. Oh no, you better show good old Joe some respect. He must be buried upside down with his feet facing heaven and his smiling face facing your house. There’s a prayer to go with it, too. And don’t be skimping on the prayer. Because, remember, there’s that old devil sitting over your left shoulder just waiting for a chance to start a fire in the kitchen you’re trying to sell. And try not to bury him when there’s a black cat in your yard or a random ladder. And for the love of all the martyred saints, wear something that’s brought you good luck before.
When we sold our house in Newport to move to Akron, we buried St. Joseph in a solemn afternoon ceremony. Dave dug the hole as I recited the prayer and wah-lah, we sold the house in less than a week. Granted, the housing bubble hadn’t burst yet but I like to think St. Joseph was working his magic right there under the crabgrass.
This March, we brought St. Joseph out of his honored spot in the dining room cabinet and buried it again. It was after Saint Patrick’s Day because you really don’t want to be mixing your patron saint worshipping and end up praying to St. Joseph to send you back to Galway, Ireland…hmmm…maybe you do. Once again, Dave and I stood in the front yard, chose a spot near the front porch, and put St. Joseph to work. I said the prayer but it was rushed and, on the reverence scale, I probably hit a two out of ten. I think the prayer went something more like, “c’mon dude, sell this house, sell this house fast.”
I’m thinking maybe St. Joseph didn’t appreciate that so much. I mean, it’s the worst housing market in a long time and here we are pressuring him when he’s already up to his upside-down sandaled feet in foreclosures and for sale signs. He’s been in that spot for a month and, despite a fresh coat of mulch, we haven’t seen much action. Today, with it being Earth Day Weekend and all of that, I decided to dig him back up and bury him in a different spot.
Here’s where the lilac comes in. We went to brunch at Mustard Seed Market and they were giving away lilac shoots and dogwood shoots for Earth Day, five per family. We have a dogwood in the front yard so I went for the lilac. When we got home, I got out the shovel, dug a hole in the side yard where I tried to grow the pumpkins last year (natural disaster of epic proportions) and settled the roots into their new bed. Lilacs are considered a harbinger of spring, just like tulips and daffodils. They also represent youthful innocence and early love. What I was hoping was that they represented “somebody buy our house” but apparently there’s not a national or martyred flower for that so I have to settle for the lovely, fragrant lilac.
I looked at the shovel and it made me think of St. Joseph hanging out in the front yard. I unburied him, wiped off his face, and considered throwing him over my left shoulder with some salt or driving to the Newport post office to mail him off to some sort of house-selling mystic. Instead, I dug another hole, this time nearer to the daffodils that are in their third and final act of blooming and beginning to droop in the shadow of the magnolia tree. Maybe old Joe needed some springtime encouragement, a fresh new look at the house. I said a little prayer, most definitely hitting at least a seven on the reverence scale, and made certain he was comfy in his new digs.
Standing there, it made me wonder how many St. Joseph statues are working overtime in yards across the country right now, and how many old Joes are left buried and forgotten after the homeowners close the deal. If I had the time and gumption, there’s probably a humorous essay or coffee table book to be written about the Life and Times of Underground Joe. I can see it now, dirty-faced Josephs being unearthed with all of the stories — good and bad — to go along with it.
Rest assured, if and when we sell the house, Joe and the lilac shoots are coming with us. I’m digging both of them back up and transporting them to places of honor in their new home, wherever and whenever that may happen. Not that I’m superstitious or anything.
Five miles this morning in 44:00 flat. She’s back, folks! She can see the shadow of her former self on the treadmill. And not one bit of knee pain in either knee. Now the question will be whether she can ramp up the mileage in time for Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Half Marathon. The other question is why am I talking about myself in third person?
Everyone has their favorite Thanksgiving Day tradition – mine is running in a Thanksgiving Day Race. It used to be the Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati, OH which also happens to be one of the oldest 10k races in the country (this year the race celebrated its 100th anniversary). If someone asked me what I miss most about Cincinnati — aside from family and friends — I would put this race in the top five, maybe even the top three.
The race itself was only part of the tradition. There was also seeing friend and elite runner Brian (aka Swarthy) before the start. No matter where I happened to be in the crowd of more than 10,000, I would somehow spot his minimally-dressed, wishbone-thin frame stretching and jumping and preparing for the run. There was also the frantic search for my notoriously late running pal Teresa who typically double-parked her car in an illegal spot downtown and reached the start line five minutes after the gun went off but somehow, she always caught up with Suzi and I. And there was also the post-run beer at Crowley’s, an Irish pub in Mt. Adams. There’s nothing like cramming hundreds of sweaty runners in a poorly-ventitlated dank bar while they drain the Guinness and Smithwicks taps. Believe me when I say the smell is undescribable. Ah, sweet memories.
Now that we’re in Akron, I run the Home Run for the Homeless. The race helps Gennesarat feed approximately 600 homeless people weekly. Weekly. On a day when most of us experience an overabundance of food (there is always too much food at Thanksgiving), it’s nice to know that more than 2000 registration fees and four-miles worth of time goes to help those in dire need. Not all tradition was lost though. I carried out my pre-race routine to the letter. First, I got up three hours before the start time and made myself a cup of coffee. Along with the coffee, I ate my pre-race cup of oatmeal, accompanied, of course, by two begging dogs waiting for a spoonful. Then I stepped outside to check the weather and decide what to wear. Three running shirt combos later, I was ready.
Stretch, stretch, stretch the knee. With it being 26 days since I had my knee scoped, I knew I wouldn’t break any personal records but I also didn’t want to miss out on the tradition so I did an extra round of physical therapy stretches. I usually don’t run races with an iPod but given that I’d need a distraction from the knee, I slipped that in my right pocket along with a prayer card from my dad’s funeral. The back of the card includes the Irish Blessing (May the road rise up to meet you…) and I figured I’d need a few more blessings than usual.
Once at the race, I followed tradition by getting in line for the port-a-potty and making general port-a-potty small talk with others which, in general, includes a lot of sandbagging. Runners are the worst kind of sandbaggers. “Oh, I’m not worried about my time this year,” or “I’ll just be glad to finish,” or “I’ve got this kink in my back that’s going to slow me down,” or “At least I’ll be running off all the beer I drank last night.” These are typically the runners who finish in the top 20. Sandbagging comes from a good place — it’s all about keeping your expectations in check and, then, if you do better than expected, celebrating.
Which is exactly what I did. Set my expectations and then celebrated when I beat them.
Based on my only pre-race run on the treadmill, I figured I’d finish at a respectable 10-minute mile pace, 4 miles in 40 minutes or maybe a wee bit over since the course included rolling hills and a steep incline outside of Glendale Cemetery. The first mile went down in 8:34. A lovely pace – hurray, I was back to my regular running self again! The second and third miles were, ummm, much slower. No worries, I just had surgery, for crap’s sake. I blessed myself with the Irish Blessing and the road rose up to meet me. The fourth mile included some walking but when I saw the finish line banner, my iPod started playing David Bowie’s “Heroes” and I started crying. They were happy tears, especially when I saw that my watch read 38:18. Under 40 minutes!
I did it and I did better than I thought I would. It was a reminder that discipline and goal-setting pays off. But it was also a reminder that I’m pretty damn fortunate to have my health, a house, and a table full of food to return to. I don’t take for granted that I have a job that comes with health care to pay for my surgery and physical therapy sessions, and that I can worry about things like my knee when other people are worrying about whether they can afford groceries. The road may rise up to meet me but there are lots of folks finding it difficult to put one foot in front of the other this year. Knowing that 40 minutes of my time helped feed another family in Akron made this traditional run far more meaningful than beating my expectations.
So, back in the day when I was training for my first marathon, my friend Suzi had this mantra that she picked up from a military friend: “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.” I can recall the exact moment of the exact run down a portion of Eastern Avenue heading toward downtown when she said it. We were at the dreaded Mile 18 of a 20-mile run and I was semi-limping my way toward the Montgomery Inn parking lot with the Ohio River to my left and a concrete wall to my right. Ahead of me, Marty’s braided ponytail bobbed along with his perfectly-rhythmic running gait. Teresa, always the one with the kick at the end, was up ahead, probably singing whatever song was on her iPod. Suzi was slightly ahead of me and Michael was somewhere far behind, having a not-so-great morning. My legs felt like I was running up against the concrete wall instead of making forward progress. I remember saying that I was going to start walking and that’s when Suzi called out the mantra. It kept me going, not only because it made sense at the time but also because it distracted me from thoughts of quitting.
Since then, I’ve used the mantra on many ugly runs and sometimes even on particularly heinous workdays. Yesterday, at physical therapy, the mantra came back loud and clear as a went for a third round of breaking up my overly exuberant and aggressive scar tissue. It appears that my body is so hell-bent on healing itself that I’m producing an overabundance of scar tissue. This all sounds good — scars mean healing, right? — but pesky scar tissue reduces range of motion and gets in the way of my goal, running. Not only running but running on Thanksgiving Day, something I have done for more than 10 years without fail, rain or snow. This turkey needs to trot!
My first two sessions of physical torture had me nearly in tears as my P.T. Susan “dug out” my knee. Those are her words along with “if you need to cry while I’m doing this, go ahead.” My words were all expletives followed by wince-growl-ouch-ouch-ouch-wince-wince. But, as the mantra goes, pain is temporary and scar tissue is a bad, bad thing so it was worth the suffering. Interestingly enough, after scar tissue is ground to a pulp, it’s reabsorbed by the body through your lymph system. I decided I needed to write a thank you note to my lymph nodes, maybe even send them a special gift of a gallon of water to help wash out the super-bad scar-y stuff.
On Monday, I was introduced to my new friend Graston and the Graston Technique. Long story short, a few fellas in Muncie Indiana developed a set of medieval torture devices to help rid the body of scar tissue and get blood flowing to and through the injured area. So Susan checks me over on Monday and says, “oh, we have to go Graston on you today.” Somehow this sounded even worse than being told I could cry. She drags over this set of heavy metal instruments that all look like shiny dinosaur teeth and butter knives for the Jolly Green Giant. Two older women were being iced down for their various injuries and one of them gasped when Susan wielded her weapon. Ready, she asked. Um….are the executed ever ready for their executioner? I think not.
After 20 minutes of a massive rubdown, my leg felt like shredded wheat and was apple-red. Susan said “go walk around.” The two ladies near me started snickering. No way can she walk after that, one said. The other, fear edging in her voice, said “you aren’t going to do that to me any time soon, are you?”
Thing is, these Graston folks know their stuff. My quad, calf and knee all felt loose. And then Susan said words that nearly brought me to tears. “Hop on the treadmill, let’s see how it goes.” Treadmill? My old friend? The mill of treading I haven’t set foot on in so many months? I felt like a kid at Christmas. I cranked it up to a paltry 5.5 (I usually run at a 7.0 or 7.3) and started jogging. Pat-clunk. Pat-clunk. Pat-clunk. Susan was not happy with the sound my legs were making. I should’ve been making the happy, healthy pat-pat-pat-pat sound with my feet. Hmmm…
Now, I’m a closet nutrition junkie. I love reading about nutrition – it fascinates me how our bodies processes things like vitamins and protein and such. But second to nutrition, I’m a physiological junkie. I’m equally fascinated about how our bodies work on a mechanical level, and how one muscle is out of whack, all of the others team up to compensate for it. Apparently, my entire left side has been overly supportive of my right side since I popped my meniscus. Thus, I’m more lopsided than usual. That right-footed clunking is due to a weak hip that decided to take a vacation and let my left side do the heavy lifting. Lazy right-side schmuck. As Susan is relaying the work we’ll need to do to strengthen the hip, I started humming the old campfire tune, “the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone…dam bones, dam bones, dam dry bones” which is a far cry better than humming the string of expletives I had been humming during the Graston Incident.
All told, I have some work to do before I’m comfortably treading the mill again. Back on the table with my knee on ice, the woman who looked so afraid of the Graston tools asked “what I was in for”. Yes, in physical therapy we talk like prisoners who have committed bodily harm unto ourselves. I told her it was a minor knee surgery to fix up a tear and remove some junk. She just had her second knee replacement. The first one didn’t work. We got to talking (there’s nothing else to do when you’re sitting with a giant bag of shaved ice on your leg) and she revealed that she was also a breast cancer survivor. That told me she’d been through far worse pain than the Graston torture devices could ever inflict.
That put my pain (and grimacing) in perspective. My pain is very temporary and very non-life threatening. Graston has nothing on the brave women who battle breast cancer — women like my niece Jeannie, my sister-in-law Mary, my friend Karen, and the woman in physical therapy. They are the real heroes and athletes. When I run on Thanksgiving — which I WILL do — it will be for all of the women (and men) out there who are the proud survivors of cancer because that is definitely a forever kind of pride.