I’m an endurance athlete. Mile after mile, footfall after footfall. Step, step, step. Breath, breath, breath. Methodical, rhythmic. Running is my meditation, a way for my body to be at one with the world. Millions of miles wear a groove of mental and muscle memory – there is no need to think. I am forward momentum.
So how can this foundation of footfalls so easily crumble? Is it one harsh misstep? Or a small sinuous imperfection of form that slowly spreads over time? However it is, the automatic action of putting one foot in front of the other is suddenly not. More jarring than The Wall in a marathon, one cannot even attempt to hobble to the finish. This IS the finish, at least for now. How quickly injury can overwhelm us, despite – or perhaps because of – our base training. We prepare to move forward, not to be held back. We don’t learn how not to run.
Is that why injury can creep up? The cadence of our steps is rapid and relentless. Not enough to catch more than a glimmer of any nearly imperceptible imperfection. We focus on the steps and breaths, not the space between.. Until the gaps widens and we’re forced to slow our breath, slow our steps, slow our body from the natural rhythm it’s come to adopt as its own. Only then can we see the foundation we’ve built is not as stable as we’d thought. One would expect that the sheer volume of effort would serve as a guarantee, but we have only learned how to place one foot ahead of the other. We have not learned how to prevent those gaps from widening. We have not learned how not to run.