When You Can’t Run

The world is on fire, figuratively and literally. Apart from the social-political-pandemic events taking place, a lot of places are actually burning. Whether they are the result of nature or of the actions of people, there are some serious fires going on. A lot of the time, these are situations we can’t help with (although some organizations take donations or volunteers to support emergency response teams – that will depend on where you are geographically located).

Where I live, wildfire smoke is making its way up from the United States. On the scale of one to ten (one being the lowest), government health officials are saying that this exceeds 10. I don’t even need them to tell me that. Just the process of walking outside to the coffee shop next door to get a latte hurts. It hurts my lungs, it even hurts my eyes. Going for a long walk isn’t an option, nevermind going for a run. Maybe there are people who live on other areas of the island (or who can get there) and are still heading outside, but that’s not the same option for me. Some people have treadmills at home that they are using, or heading to the gym. Again, not my circumstance.

So what happens when someone who gets outside regularly, to walk or run, is suddenly trapped inside? I’m not willing to damage my lungs just to get a run in. I’m even apprehensive about walking to get groceries. Notwithstanding all the jokes about runners continuing on despite injuries in the face of the end of the world, I learned my lesson a few years ago with my IT band. It took longer to recover because I didn’t pay attention to it and the smoke is definitely some that needs to be paid attention to. I suppose I could probably run with the low-quality air but realistically, that will not be the healthiest choice.

What happens when you can’t run? What happens when a runner can’t run?

Well, I certainly start going a little crazy. I work, but then afterwards I’ve got 5-ish hours to myself. I pace in my apartment (the poor neighbor living downstairs!). I binge watch Netflix, new shows and rewatching movies. I write. I practice costume makeup. I practice regular makeup. I stretch and do yoga. I re-read books. I try to avoid online shopping, just because that can escalate really quickly. Given that the pandemic is still going on, I’m not going to head outside to do unnecessary shopping (plus outdoors is smoky!). I message and zoom chat with friends, but most of them live in a different province or country so getting together in person isn’t an option. I also drink a lot of coffee.

It’s really easy to start to start dwelling on everything that’s going wrong. It’s easy to start thinking that once the air clears up I won’t be able to run well because I will have fallen behind in training. It’s very easy to think that I won’t want to run because I’ve just gotten used to sitting about. Applying make-up in a mirror makes me hyper-aware of the scars I’ve obtained falling during seizures while outside. My tiny little apartment is still super tiny but suddenly it feels safe and comfortable. I look at photos that I have on my phone and wonder about all the decisions I’ve ever made. It’s somehow easier to look back and focus on questioning myself than to look back and think of the things I’ve accomplished. The life I’ve made here, I can judge myself for being here and I can also take pride in it, but we know which one can be easier. When I’m running, I feel a sense of pride in myself and currently the best physical activities I have are yoga and pacing in my tiny apartment.

I know what’s easiest. I know what’s comfortable. I know what’s safe. I’ve spent the last twenty-one years challenging the things that are easy and comfortable and safe, as an epileptic. I’ve looked at those challenges and thought to myself “how do I overcome this?” I’ve done some things that most people would never dream of trying and succeeded. I even intend to keep doing a lot of them. I have a lot of scars but they have been worth it. Some of the challenges are here where I live, some of them involve travel (which I will do). There are races that I hope start up again because even though I cannot run right now due to the smoke, I look forward to getting back to it.

What happens when a runner can’t run?

It’s easy to spiral downwards. There are things that are outside of our control. I can’t improve the air quality. I’ve done things that aren’t safe before (running alone in the evening), I can always make the decision to go or not to go and hope for the best. In this case, I know that the air quality is not going to be for the best. I’m not going to intentionally hurt myself.

What happens when a runner can’t run?

Keep in mind that things will change and running will happen again. Taking care of an injury, waiting out the air quality to improve, sometimes it just takes patience. Remember the successes that have happened in the past and enjoy those positive memories. Runners are still runners, even when they aren’t running.

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