Runner Down

The pavement in front of the old Tool Company on Granite Street is hard and unyielding.  I am surprised to find myself flat on it, having landed hard, first onto my knees and palms, then slammed down onto my left side.  I leap up as quickly as I had landed, damage assessment already underway.

The knees of my compression running tights are torn clear through.  Rivulets of blood run down from my knees into the black legs of the tights, the bright red color seeping through already.  My palms ache, but the ugly black thrift shop fleece gloves have held up well; the fabric is intact.  When I tug them off, there is no blood on either hand.  I carefully touch my finger to the holes in my tights; I feel bits of sand embedded under the skin.   My left hip and shoulder are sensitive to the touch, bruised, but nothing seems broken.  Both of my arms hurt, the bones jarred, probably from trying to break the fall. I stand there in the shadow of the looming, rotting building, my mind trying to catch up with what just happened.  Up until this moment, this has been the best run of the month.

For the first mile, the plantar fasciitis was a mere memory and each stride felt like flying instead of running, my feet barely touching the ground.  The second mile was still pretty good, a little sensitivity in the heel, but definitely manageable.  As I hit the start of the third mile, I am thinking I will go all the way to Halibut Point, this crisp-but-not-cold January morning a blessing after the past few weeks. The sun has warmed my face and arms and I know I am grinning as  I speed down the hill by the tool company with my arms pumping and legs screaming.  Then I hit the sand patch on the side of the road.

Everyone gives me advice about winter running.  Careful, you might slip on the ice.  It’s pretty cold out there—are you sure you are warm enough?  Don’t you worry about frost bite?  Do you ever think a car might slide in the snow and skid right into you?  I understand and appreciate the concern, but I am careful.  I dress appropriately.  I slather my cheeks with a thick layer of Aquaphor to protect my skin.  I try to be extra-aware of the traffic, knowing the roads are sometimes snowy or icy.  I know I am taking a risk, but I honestly think there are much bigger risks I could be taking in my life than running outdoors during the winter season.  I had not considered the possibility that I might slip on sand.

I stand on the side of the road for another minute, still debating whether I should keep going or turn back.  I roll my shoulders, bend a bit to the left and the right, testing out the shoulder and hip.  It actually feels fine.  Well, not fine, but not bad, either.  Then I feel the warmth of the blood running down each shin and decide to turn back.  Turn back but still run.

I take the long way back, trotting along at a good clip, slowing down every once in awhile to check how my body feels.  Except for my skinned knees, I’m good.  I run along Granite Street to Railroad Avenue, then turn left onto Broadway.  I am able to pick up speed for a sprint and make it to the end of the hill before slowing down again.  I dog-trot the rest of the way home.

Safely inside the house, I make a cup of tea while I cool down.  I think about peeling off the tights.  I wait.  My stomach is queasy as I pull the fabric away from my skin.  The bleeding seems to have stopped, but I’m not really ready to take care of my own first-aid needs.  After about half an hour, I trudge up the stairs to the shower, dreading seeing my poor knees.

It’s not as bad as I thought.  The tights come off with only a minor amount of sticking and I find bright red skin peeled back, worse on the right than the left.  I sit on the edge of the bathtub with a damp tissue and gently wipe away the sand and the dirt from each wound.  I turn on the shower and get in, bracing myself.  I let the warm water run over my body and it feels good.  I gently wash the cuts first, then brave the shampoo and the rest.  When I get out, I cover each knee with antibacterial goop, wincing a bit, telling myself to stop being such a baby.  I know I’m lucky I have not broken anything.  I do call and cancel my second client of the day, rescheduling, but leave the rest of the day as planned.

As the day progresses, I notice how much my hip and shoulder ache, and how painful it is to bend my knees.  Each time I sit or squat, the cuts open fresh and bleed.  It hurts, but not enough to keep me from the day.  I work, I cook a delicious dinner to take to my son’s new apartment for our first family dinner there.  The thought that keeps running around in my head all the while is, of course, Will I be able to run tomorrow?  This is always my question when I have an injury, when the weather is horrible, when I am sick.  When I had pneumonia last year, I ran through it, every day.  I have been running with plantar fasciitis.  I just run.  But I worry about it.

By nighttime, a ping pong ball-sized lump of soft tissue has formed beneath my right kneecap.  The thought of ice is unbearable, so I take ibuprofen instead.  I go to bed, trying to find a sweet spot where the pain my shoulder, hip and knees backs off enough so I can rest.  I toss and turn, sleeping, dreaming.  Even in my sleep, I worry.  Will I be able to run?

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3 Comments on “Runner Down”

  1. Oh Elizabeth! Sorry about your ow-eys! Ray says we will probably run into you on Saturday (John Hammond). I hope you’ll be able to go and enjoy… Much love, and healing thoughts~EW

  2. Bill Joyce Says:

    Oh how I wanted to rescue you, as one of my favorite neighbors.
    Just like I wanted to beat up your bullies, the vegan critic and Ugly Aldo.

    Since I have way too much free time on my hands, being retired (or unemployed I don’t know which), next time you skin your knee you call my cell 978 810 0079. I can come pick you up in my Chrysler 300 Gangsta Car and drive you home.

    I just recovered from plantar fasciitis as well, cured by frequent stretching of the calve muscle by pulling my toes toward me relaxing the restricted plantaris tendons. Either that or I simply decided I did not want to suffer that illusion any longer and it disappeared.

    As Forrest Gump’s girl friend cheered on “Run Elizabeth Run”.

    • Dear Bill-
      Thank you for reading, and for being so willing to be my hero, in so many ways. I will put your number in my phone for the next time I require a rescue. You are also one of my favorite neighbors and I would be thrilled to be driven home in your Chrysler 300 Gansta Car.

      Thanks also for the tips on the plantar fasciitis. Will try the toe pulling and see if it helps. If not, I will take the disappearing illusion route.

      You are an excellent cheerleader!
      xo, Elizabeth

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