About a month ago, I learned that my left leg is about half an inch longer than my right.
I also learned that my right hip sits higher than my left, and my left foot naturally supinates (that would be fancy speak for “tilts”) inward.
Talk about some major problems, right?
On Christmas Day last year, I woke up early before my parents arrived for our typical day of movies and Indian food. I toasted a couple pieces of grainy bread and slathered on peanut butter and banana. While digesting, I began to strap on my winter running gear: nylon leggings, long sleeved moisture wicking top, ear-protecting headband, warm wicking socks. I made sure I was adequately hydrated, had my emergency contact info and housekeys around my neck, had my Sauconys tightly wound and double knotted.
As I exited my apartment building, I smiled at the doorman. I was already wired, about to head out on my longest run to date. It was 51 degrees, windless, sunny. 51 felt crisp and refreshing in December.
For some reason, I had convinced myself that the city would be quiet on Christmas morning, so I thought it would be fun to run along Broadway, rather than sticking to the east or west sides as was typical for me. I had it perfectly mapped: Wall Street to Penn Station and back again.
Apparently I forgot about the overabundance of tourists that infiltrate Manhattan for the holidays. Just 6 blocks in, I was wishing for magical abilities to float through all the people obliviously gazing upward, feet planted firmly in the center of the sidewalks. Quickly realizing my Broadway idea was far-fetched, I turned west, beginning to zig zag my way uptown, sticking to less tourist-friendly streets.
A mile or so in, I found myself hitting a rhythm. My pace was comfortable, my breath even, my body warmed from the inside out. I passed the purse peddlers in Chinatown, the SoHo boutiques, the cobblestones of the West Village. As I reached my turnaround point, I spotted a clock – I had been running for a precise 40 minutes, and I felt I could go for hours more.
Later I would map out the route I actually took and discover that my zig zagging had added nearly a full mile to my planned run. 7.84 miles. I maintained an even 10 minute mile pace, an accomplishment of which I felt quite proud. Speed was never of great importance to me. I finished with a sprint and a grin on my face.
While coming down from euphoria on my walk back to my building, I noticed a small vibrating sensation behind my left kneecap. I didn’t think much of it; I had a couple days of rest planned. Running is tough on the body; tweaks and twinges are par for the course.
Six weeks later, vibrating had become grating, and one knee had become both. I took a break from running, went to physical therapy, became well acquainted with ice packs. I was cleared to start running again, and the pain returned. That’s when I was informed of my “skeletal misalignment.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever run again. I hope I will. But in a strange way, injuring myself was a good thing. It’s rare for me to be able to push myself the way I did while getting half marathon ready; my knees can’t handle it – yet. And so I’ve discovered that exercise doesn’t have to be about constantly conquering new goals.
For me, it’s about the high. That feeling when the rhythm hits, when the body generates its own heat, when the mind is focused yet clear. I don’t need to run to achieve that; I can do a host of other things. That was a lesson I needed to learn.