I usually lead a group run on Wednesday afternoon, but they only like to run six miles, so I tack in miles before and after to hit what's on my schedule. After 12 hours at work, I put on my tights and zipped up my Northface jacket and went out the door to get some miles in before the group run. I followed the same route as always, winding through a lightly-trafficked subdivision. Four miles into this Wednesday's run, I was hit head on and at full speed by a cyclist. He swerved from the shoulder of the road, into the sidewalk that I was running on. While it sounds funny (it is, I know), the cyclist who was riding at 16-17 miles per hour was hurt too.
When the initial impact occurred, I didn't know what happened. It was pitch black and I was on my back. The wind was knocked out of me, and during that time that I was panicking and unable to catch my breath. There were a million thoughts running through my brain uncontrollably. Was I hit by a car? A bike? A deer or some animal? Was I attacked? Once I was able to breath, I was afraid to stand up still not knowing the extent of what happened. I pulled myself to my feet and noticed my watch was still running (damn it, what will my Strava friends think!?). At this point, I assessed the damage. It hurt to breath, I bit my tongue badly, and my legs hurt. As I looked back, the cyclist was wobbling to his bike and wouldn't respond to my attempts to ask if he was okay. He may have thought that I posed a threat to him, or felt guilty that he smashed an unsuspecting runner, but I certainly wasn't mad.
At this point a moment of realization occurred and I panicked. Nothing was likely broken, but I was hurting. I have been running a lot of high volume mileage, quality speed work and long runs. I've been executing the training plan that my coach developed for me. We were rocking it. I didn't want to let him or my wife or family down. It reminded me of breaking my foot in a race. Was I going to be out another 6 weeks? I am fit and I am three weeks away from a race. It was Wednesday, and I still had 60 miles to run before Sunday night on my training plan. I knew I wouldn't finish the run, I couldn't breathe properly. But I still had to cover ¾ mile to get back to my group. I was hopeful that even though this week was ruined, I could still still salvage some fitness for the race. My limp progressed from a goofy walk, to a shuffle and then a jog. I made it back and told everyone what happened. I started shedding layers of clothes to blood, scrapes and bruises that I didn't even know were there. I realized that while the impact hurt, it didn't break anything. While I was scraped up I wasn't seriously injured. I was hurting, but I wasn't going to be held back by that. I was right about one thing: I'd be 7.5 miles short for my Wednesday run.
This is where the the accident did more good for me than finishing the run ever would have - I made a commitment in my head to work through the pain over the next few days (as long as it didn't alter my gait or form) and get those miles in. This means something to me. On Thursday (today) I ran 12 miles. Every step hurt my scrapped up butt, every breath hurt my bruised shoulder, lat, ribs and pecs. Every breath out reminded me that my tongue was cut. All of these are minor in the grand scheme of things, but I had every reason not to run and I did it anyway. As I kept plodding forward, the pain started to subside some.
When the going gets tough at the Pilot Mountain Trail Marathon in 27 days, or during my 100M race this fall, this is a run I'll remember. I'll know that I've been deep in the trenches, the swamps - a bad place mentally before and I can keep going even when every muscle in my body hurts. I can push on even when I have to work for every breath. This is one of the many opportunities over the last year that have helped me become more resilient and tougher. This was also comparable to a checkpoint or exam; how tough am I? I aced this test, I'm as tough as nails now. But I wasn't always…
Growing up I was weak as hell from a mental standpoint. I was insecure, scared of failure and didn't believe in myself - I couldn't take risks or even be myself. I was afraid to be who I really was. I wanted to be accepted. This provided me with another opportunity to silence those inner doubts and be courageous in the face of pain and adversity. I love growing like this. You can't get it from a normal 12 mile easy run. This shit is situational and cannot be simulated. I'm not that scared insecure boy anymore. I am not the kid who is easily conquered by his demons and inner voices. I was never missing talent and I've never lacked work ethic - I'm a workhorse. I lacked mental strength and courage, but I've come a long way and it's evident. My doubts are what killed me in the past, now I kill all of my doubts and I feel unstoppable. My doubts and negative talk were the root of my problem, and over the course of the last few years I ripped those roots out of the ground and planted new seeds that will make me grow.
No feeling sorry for myself - ever. No letting anything stop me - ever. I'm coming for what I want.
As a disclaimer - please don't let my message get misconstrued. I'm not telling anyone to run through injury or pain. If you're hurt and you run it will get worse and you'll be in a bad situation. Be sensible and always conservative. I knew my aches and pains were cosmetic and mental. This provided an opportunity for growth for me in my own personal journey.