Don’t Call It a Comeback. No, Really.

I just googled ‘World’s Shortest Running Comeback’ and I cannot believe that does not appear to be something runners keep track of somewhere. Runners keep track of all kinds of ridiculous things, so why not comeback miles? Or miles between initial and next injury? Besides, it has been so long since I earned my last participation medal at a marathon or buckle at an ultra that I am starting to experience low self-esteem. You can tell because it’s been a minute since I posted a selfie with an inspirational quote.

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Insert quote intended to inspire which actually makes people feel worse about themselves.

In all seriousness, after my microdiscectomy, I was a very good patient and followed my recovery protocol strictly. I am no longer young and silly (when I was 30 I had knee surgery and tried to run two days later). When the doctor released to me to begin running again, I was very smart and restrained in my progression back to running. I went to a small, flat, gravel ‘trail’ near my house and ran for one to two minutes and walked for two to four minutes.  I was ecstatic to get to do these little bits of jogging. I could not have been happier. I was telling everyone the recovery from my back surgery was a piece of cake compared to the recovery from my hip surgery (although my hip is doing awesome; the recovery just takes patience).

But the jogging period was incredibly short-lived. I think I got to experience this level of nirvana about three times, because somewhere in there we had a freak short blizzard while I was out walking. The sidewalks turned to black ice. Even though I had the presence of mind to move to the grass, I stepped once on the sidewalk. My feet flew up in the air like a cartoon character and I came down hard on the surgical side of my body. Picturing in my head what I looked like was hilarious. But the reality of the impact, not so much.

Within a few nights, I was waking up in agony, crying and unable to roll over. I made an appointment with my PT and now I am back to starting all over again.

Me to PT: What can I do?

PT: As long as there is no pain you can run.

Me (totally misunderstanding English): Wait….So you’re saying I can RUN?

PT (laughing at me): No. When there is no pain. You’re in pain.

Runners will try to find any and all loopholes so we can run. I cannot believe we are not all attorneys.

I left the appointment so distraught and angry at myself. The surgeon had told both my husband me that I could run after six weeks. I was just starting to run and I fell and jacked myself up. How could I do this to myself? I had not been able to run in so long and I was supposed to be able to run now.

I had been so depressed. I needed running. Running could lift me out of the darkest days. That was my hope and I was back to waiting.

My husband called me that afternoon shortly after my appointment to find out what the verdict was and I could not even talk about it yet. I had no idea what to say or if I could even say anything at all.

After another 90 minutes, I called my friend Tracey who has gone through a very long recovery period from her own injury and surgery and I told her the news. Though she is running incredibly well right now, she understood how heartbreaking the last 2.5 years have been. Every time I started running, something happened and I had to stop. The last time I trained and raced anything was Run Rabbit Run in 2016. She knew I didn’t even care about racing. I just wanted to run to be on a trail in the mountains. It was about my need for quiet time in the wilderness. It was about my own mental and physical health.

For more than two years, I kept up the mentality that ‘I am still a runner’ even though I am not able to run right now. I know a lot of runners who get injured, immediately get depressed and have to avoid all things running. I fully admit I was that person when I was younger. I gained patience as I got older and realized how ridiculous I sounded when I whined about having to take a day or a week off from running.

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Hell, I didn’t even hate snow. Running in snow is FUN! Walking, not so much.

Then I had a couple of strong and healthy years of running. I felt great. I felt tough and invincible and it was wonderful. Not even cancer was going to take me out of running!

But then ‘other things’ came along and those things DID take me out of running. Now I have been out for so long I vacillate between thinking I am a non-running runner and trying to make peace with maybe not really being a runner anymore,  because at some point ‘positive thinking’ becomes ‘delusional thinking’. I am still trying to figure out if I am in the ‘positive zone’ or the ‘delusional zone’, because I think there is a really fine line between the two zones. I guess once I stop crying in pain at night, I can try jogging again and see how that goes. For right now I am trying very hard to be a walker with hopes of being a hiker with hopes of being a runner some day.

I continue to ask myself that age-old question, am I or am I not, a flying, talking donkey?

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Washington Post Link

I wrote an article about my journey with pancreatic cancer that was published in the Washington Post today. I wish I could have unlimited space because there is so much more to say and so many more people I would like to mention.

Here is the link to the article Washington Post Tonia’s pancreatic cancer story

Thank you again to the Washington Post for publishing this story. We are all wishing Alex Trebek and everyone fighting pancreatic cancer the best.