Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bailing On My Running Group Mid-Run

I bailed on my running group mid-run today. That's unusual and I imagine it surprised them. Explanations are in order.

Early, before heading out with the group, I took the dog for a romp around the neighborhood. I felt my back twinging just enough to bother me. I figured I was stiff from playing basketball yesterday and that if I eased in, it would work out.

I was running in my oldest pair of Vibram FiveFingers which I bought in August 2008. I've been running in a newer pair but was soaking them to see if they could be rendered a little less funky. Looking down at the old shoes I noted the frayed strap on my right foot and smiled. It has been in the same state for a year, I thought. These things are indestructible.

Just before heading out, I wasn't sure if I should try to use the bathroom. Non-runners may not understand, but every runner I know understands that bathroom thinking is high priority stuff. There's not much worse than needing to go on the run. I thought carefully, then decided to skip it. I needed to get going so I wouldn't be late.

I still felt that twinge in my back, but as I ran down the flat road to our meeting point, it loosened up just as I had hoped. Great! And I wasn't feeling the need to use the bathroom.

The six of us met up and started running. I fell in with Mike but had trouble keeping up. Mike's a much stronger runner, so this wasn't shocking. I figured we were burning up the pace, but my watch said that we were doing just barely under ten-minute miles. Uh-oh. Why, I wondered, am I feeling this tired?

I went out last night with Mike and a few others for beers. Maybe that last round had been a mistake. But I've had more to drink the night before a run and not had problems. Weird stuff.

We headed up an incline, I can't call it a hill, and my back said hello again. I hoped it would loosen again, but it didn't until the road flattened. We were headed for Peck Hill. Not good. Turning onto Peck Hill Road I knew it wasn't going to work.

Here's where things get unusual.

I quit, told them that I had to bail, and turned around. I usually push through and regret it later. I'm not especially good at listening to my body. Today, though, it was best to surrender and so I did. Usually,  when I quit, I berate myself for it, but today I didn't feel that for a second. I felt happy.

Then I felt something else.

I should have gone to the bathroom before leaving the house. I was a mile and a half from home and needing to take care of business that's not easy to do outdoors in deserted areas let alone in a city neighborhood. And this wasn't a sort-of feeling, this was three-alarm. I picked up my pace and clenched trying not to feel what I was feeling.

Then I felt something else.

That frayed strap was now torn free and flopping with each step. It made me run with an odd gait made even odder by the recurring urges to poop and the continuing ache in my back.

That last mile and a half will remain, I hope, the most "interesting" distance I ever run.

Now, at home, out of the flopping shoe, my bowels relieved, showered, and sitting in a straight chair to type this, I have one strange thought about all this:

I feel good.

As many things that went wrong, all of it was easy to survive. I can even cherish the image of myself limping with floppy shoe and squeezed butt cheeks through the neighborhood hoping desperately to make it home and into the bathroom. I feel good about having gone out to run with friends and making what turned out to be a great decision to bail on the run.

I have a feeling that they're going to be glad I turned around too.

Run and write on.