The morning wasn’t that cold. Two days after the longest day of the year, it’s close to forty degrees outside. Not much snow or ice on the sidewalk. If I timed it right I’d be able to round the corner onto West Jewell just in time for the morning fireworks we call the sunrise here in Colorado.
I did, in fact. However, not the way I’d planned it. I was running. I wasn’t supposed to be, but I was.
I think it was the shoes.
Let me back up here.
This year has been a rough one for injuries. Among them, I smashed the hell out of both my knees. And I damaged tendons in both my feet rather badly from hiking long hours in boots that weren’t made for hiking.
When I went to see my physical therapist, he admonished me to stay off the roads. Don’t run. Hit the bike (which currently needs repairs), swim, run the pool, do the elliptical. But don’t run. That’s conventional wisdom.
Truth is that research shows that people who run have better knees than those who don’t, and that includes us much older folks. If anything movement ensures the body’s WD-40, synovial fluid, continues to keep us juicy.
And I like to be outside. So I walked a few times. Close to three miles I usually run. Lots of long, slow hills. At over a mile high. Makes you work.
In getting treated for the damage to my dogs, the young intern at the VA podiatry clinic suggested Hokas.
Who? What? Sounds like a village I might visit near Taos.
Yeah. Tells you what I know. The doc explained. I’m in that top very few percentage of folks whose arches are so high that we require specialized orthotics (yes, expensive, yes, they help). Horse foot, they called it. Those are my Mickey D arches. Hokas apparently were better for that kind of foot. I pronate and supinate, have crunched my ankles repeatedly. Hokas help, he said.
Looked ’em up on line. Damn. Pricey.
But Melynda, my primary care nurse who is an endurance runner, is a huge fan. That did it for me. The search was on.
Then I went to Sierra Trading Post, where I scooped up two pairs of Hoka runners and one hiker, all around sixty apiece. Musta been my day. One pair at retail was more than what I had spent on three. Whee!!
Shortly after I got back from Ethiopia two weeks ago, I changed out my shredded Jack Wolfskin summer runners for the Hokas. Slipped the orthotics inside and stood up.
Damn. Comfortable. Damn, man. Just….damn.
They looked suspiciously like those nurse shoes I see women wearing as they squeak down the slick hospital hallways. They were comfortable all right. Magic, even.
On the Lufthansa flight from Addis to Frankfort, I watched the movie Forrest Gump for the first time in decades. I’d forgotten how much I loved the story. And, I’d forgotten the sweetness. How Forrest had run so far for so long to work out his pain when Jenny disappeared again.
Not a bad plan, that. Weights and workouts have long been my favorite go-tos for stress.
My problem was different. I turn 67 in January. This year, my bumps put me on Injured Reserve status enough so that I lost a bit of conditioning. Noticeable. Not at the gym, but in my endurance work. I’m no endurance runner, but this year I couldn’t regularly run the steps at Red Rocks, which for me is my gold standard for workouts. At least 2400 and up to 3600 steps a pop. Bad feet will tend to put the brakes on your step running.
So this morning, I headed out into the early dark, dressed like a Christmas tree. Black Goretex pants, bright green jacket, red and white gloves. Wasn’t planning it but that’s how it happened. I was speed walking along smartly until I hit my first major intersection.
Then, fuck it. My PT doesn’t live in this body. I started running.
Now look. My neighbor’s Chihuahua can walk faster than I can jog, especially bundled up in the cold, especially trying out my banged-up knees, especially testing a brand new pair of shoes.
But I ran. True to their reputation, the magic shoes helped. My knees didn’t hurt. I ran on concrete (the worst) about as fast as an old lady can shuffle, but this was one time I really did not want to take a tumble. I’ve had too many this year, physically and emotionally.
I headed up the hills. No prob. Rounded the corners. No prob. Hardly broke a sweat. Steady as she goes. I really do love to run.
As I turned the corner on a downhill leg, I lengthened my stride.
There it is, I thought. I fucking love these shoes. Confident I wasn’t going to crank an ankle, bark my knees or hobble my hips, I sped up. I still can’t outrun the Chihuahua but look, when I am rehabbing, I will take what I can get. Then a little more. Then a little more.
Then, the sky blasted open. Pink, purple. It gets showy around here. The pollution helps, but early morning it’s not as bad.
My hips barked a bit, but they always do. When you do what I have done to my body over the years, then spend a decade doing epic adventure travel, the body has a lot to say about it.
But it still works.Remarkably well. As long as I keep working it, respectfully.
My PT told me not to run.
He doesn’t live in this body. I need to move, and I like moving faster. (I didn’t say fast, remember the Chihuahua). I will never be a marathoner, never stand on a podium with a medal.
For me, as I age, my “medal” comes with every jog I finish, every weight workout I complete, every swim session and bike ride and stair run I finish. The older I get, sometimes I don’t always feel like it.
But when I finish, I sure feel like a champion. Because every time I push myself a little harder, a little further, my body gives me what I ask for. And more. The trick is to know when to back off, when to rest, and when to lie quietly in a hot bathtub, up to my nostrils in fragrant bubbles.
The Hokas are great, but it’s not the shoes. It’s the gift that I can get up in the morning. Head outside. Greet another day. Live another 24 hours. If I keep working at it like this, those days will continue to be filled with wonder, excitement, growth, and friends (Christmas lunch today with my buddy Lisa!!) who is also, at 65, a lifetime runner.
The Chihuahua might walk faster than I can run, but he can’t give a fist bump to the morning sunrise.
My Christmas gift to me: magic shoes, and the will to keep running in them.