Monday, September 12, 2011

Eleven miles on 9/11!

It's time for a HAPPY POST!

I noticed that some of my bloggy friends were running 11 miles on 9/11 and I decided that this would be a worthy way to remember those who died on that day and those who have died in the ensuing occupations (ahem. Wars. Whatever. This is not a political blog).

To understand how much running eleven miles means to me, I take you back to the summer of 2007. I was on a fire outside of Missoula. There had been something creeping around in my knee for awhile but I was doing what I usually do, ignore and hope it went away. Then I stood up and my knee locked. I can't describe the intense pain. Not only did it lock, but it kept trying to unlock in spasms. I hopped over to the med tent in tears, but there wasn't much they could do. Over the next couple of days the knee unlocked slightly so I could limp around, but it was clear that life as I knew it--as a marathoner--was over.

There were months after the surgery when a one mile jog was a victory. Even two years later there were residual spasms. The farthest I dared to run was about an hour. I biked and hiked instead. Double digit runs, I thought, were a thing of the past.

Did I dare dip back into the way things used to be?  I decided to try. I could always walk.  I started in the predawn darkness. It was already seventy degrees as I shuffled slowly up the Hill of Death and its lesser cousin, the Mountain of Misery. Drift smoke swirled around my face. I had picked a rollercoaster run, but a beautiful one that winds by the lake on a dirt road.

I was completely alone. No lights came on, nothing stirred. I thought a lot about the firefighters who went into certain death, just because that is what they do. I thought about all the people at work, maybe surfing the internet, thinking about what they brought for lunch, or just working away. I thought about the people on the planes. I thought about how lucky I was to be running. I thought about the last ten years--from Oregon to Alaska and back. From bad times to good.

To my surprise the first half went smoothly. I felt great! For a few moments I was back in the zone, the marathon zone, the one that made all the pain worth it. You know what that's like. Reaching the marina trail, I turned around and headed back. I was moving slowly, slower than my marathon pace used to be, but I didn't really care. It wasn't about time.

I had a few bad moments between miles 8 and 9 when my body rebelled a little, wondering what I was doing. The knees and hips felt a little out of alignment. I slowed down. But everything smoothed out again and before I knew it, I was racing down the Hill of Death, with only one mile to go. I felt a smile fan out across my face. I'm baaaack, I thought.

But not really. I can't make runs like this a part of my repertoire very often. I need to protect my knees, which have been doing remarkably well lately. Still, I cruised up to my house, looking around for Cute Neighbor or Fun Athletic Girl to tell.

Nobody was around. I hugged my accomplishment like a sweater. Eleven miles is nothing to most of my runner friends-just a warm-up. But to me, it's everything.


  1. Are we separated at birth? All of your posts make me ask that question. I love the feeling of pulling off a long run without knee pain. It so rarely happens anymore.

  2. Sounds like a fantastic run! I hope your knee continues to behave.

  3. Congrats Mary!

    Glad this one came off okay for you. Sounds like a great run.
    Those pesky knees....

  4. It IS a happy post...congratulations both on your tribute and your 11 mile accomplishment!


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