I’m crushed by the weight of my grief, my loneliness and my sense of being trapped. I almost scream seeing another set of runners take off; a man and a woman with their dog. After sitting for some time I can feel what I need–it’s a nagging, insistent ache.
I hadn’t planned this and I’m not certain it’s a good idea, but I take off my ugly post-operative shoes and leave them sitting next to the pedals in my car. My running shoes–not the super padded new pair I hate but my Vivobarefoot trail shoes, worn at the edges–have remained on the floorboard of my passenger seat all this time. They are stiff with cold but my feet slide easily into them. I open the door and swing my legs out.
I can feel the pavement, cold and hard beneath my feet. I push firmly against the ground, curling back the toes of my right foot to stretch out the plantar fascia. My heel feels tender and I carefully give equal weight to each foot. At the end of the parking lot I step onto the wet grass and feel the lumpy mounds of dirt. It doesn’t hurt at all–it feels right.
When I attempt to walk faster I become fearful so I continue slowly and methodically, like a procession from the temple space during sesshin. My feet are cold as they tenderly join the earth. My face is a little warm from the sunshine and a little wet with tears as I continue next to Lake Crabtree, where I started so many training runs on warmer days. Now I want someone to talk to, to assure me I’m doing the right thing, to remind me life will not always feel this way. I am alone; I must reassure myself.
I get to the steeply downward sloping turn where I might ordinarily crack a smile and pick up the pace. Instead I stop and look where the trail continues–and then turn. I think of Amelia Boone and how she describes her own fears returning from injury, holding in gratitude this icon of obstacle course racing. I think about how far my feet have carried me. I feel the crispness of the air I breathe. I am walking. It’s all right.