Back on Saturday, March 26, 2022, I made a unwise decision.
I ran in the Douglas Freeman High School Maverick Miles 5K.
This was a careless choice because my left hamstring was misbehaving.
In fact, the unhappy hamstring had started to annoy me as early as March 20. That morning, I cut a run short. In a miserable voice, the hamstring’s order was clear—“stop.”
I tried to make the hamstring happy. Heat treatments, moderate stretching, ibuprofen, and aspercreme rubs failed to settle down the irritated hammy. And early on, I consulted with our son, Andrew, who from his high school running days knows the temperamental hamstring.
Since, March 26, I have impatiently waited for the hamstring to heal.
A part of that impatience has been watching other runners trek through our neighborhood without a care in the world. They freely stride straight stretches, curves, and hills. My old sack of bones wants to join.
During this road absence, I have ridden our stationary bike in the basement. I’ve tried to enlighten myself by listening to interviews on the NPR show Fresh Air. The variety of guests is diverse, but more amazing are the stories of the resilence of the human spirit during challenging times.
I have also supplemented the bike workouts with a few neighborhood walks.
Plus each morning, I revisit some ancient calisthenics from Miss Alma Joyner’s fourth grade class on the blacktop basketball court at Hillcrest Elementary School. I guess Miss Joyner would be proud that I did retain something from her year of attempting to teach me.
With the pandemic still hovering, I have not returned to the Tuckahoe YMCA. So, sit ups, push ups, and light weights are in my early morning routine.
But on the morning of Monday, May 23, I resolved to go for a run. I had to find out if the hammy would allow me to return to the sluggish pounding that my soul had missed.
Around 6:20, I took a few, short tentative steps on Sweetbriar Road.
The hammy was quiet.
My feet took me down Stuart Hall’s winter sledding hill, across Baldwin, and back up another Stuart Hall hill heading toward Forest Avenue.
I hooked a left into the Trinity UMC driveway that parallels Forest. Took another left on to Rock Creek Road and headed for a right on Baldwin.
The hammy was still quiet, but I was battling my brain. Should I take one of my traditional routes, or should I alter my route, and not push the luck of my hamstring?
Luckily, my brain chose a shorter route. I curved left on to Westham Parkway, worked through the crisscross at Brookside, and headed up Brynmawr’s challenging hill.
At the top of the hill, I turned left on to Woodberry, and another left back on Sweetbriar, and then I was home.
The hammy was attempting to speak, but in a whispered tone.
Overall, I was pleased with my twenty minute slog. Mentally, I made a note to venture out again on Wednesday morning.
My old soul has missed my runs.
I know if I continue to pound the pavement, at some point, my body will say to me—“you’re done.”
I live in fear of that day.
That disconnect will spin my mind into recalling snapshots deep in the vaults of my old noggin.
I’ll travel back to hear the clear hoots of an owl on a crisp fall morning.
See a misplaced deer nibbling on tender new foliage in a neighbor’s front yard.
Watch the silent, but efficient glide of the heron in a gray sky heading toward Westhampton Lake.
Enjoy the teasing swirl of snowflakes in a gust of winter wind.
Encounter a weary, young mother pushing a stroller with a crabby passenger.
Hear the whirring of tires and chatter of bike riders as they zoom past my tired legs.
And miss cleansing the meanness of my soul when summer heat, humidity, and dew point collide, and drench me in perspiration.
On Tuesday, May 24, my legs, especially my quads are not happy. They feel the strain of not running since March. Courtesy of my wise friend, Bruce Bowen, I know the cure—an even slower run on Wednesday morning.
Somewhere, in this hamstring whine, the good Lord has been at work too.
All the scenery, all that beauty, and the wonder of this world that I have enjoyed on my runs are courtesy of his touch.
As I continue to age, I must commit to helping preserve all that beauty and wonder.
Failing to commit only hurts the future.
And that isn’t acceptable as our grandchildren are in that future.