It was definitely not my longest. Not even close to my fastest. I didn’t hear any cheering or have any great epiphanies. I remember being scared. But I was excited too. Scared it was going to hurt. Excited that it might not.
It was my most important run.
February 4th. 1993. I was a junior in HS. It was a 1/2 mile run from my front door. That’s it. My most important run was only 800 meters long.
5 months earlier I had started my XC season with the fastest time by a NJ runner at the opening meet & that was soon followed by an invitation to the 5th Avenue Mile in NYC. I thought I may actually be a runner.
Then my foot started to hurt. Then it hurt worse. Taping it alone, icing it alone, screaming at it alone, throwing things around my room alone – it only hurt more. September would be lost.
October. Misdiagnosed – again & again. Told to take a few days off. Told to run on it again. Told it would get better. It didn’t.
November. I got mono. I got over the mono. My foot still hurt.
December. The bone scan said 4 cracks in the foot. Well, that explained the pain. And it would explain the knee high plaster cast I was put in.
It had been 5 months of knowing that every time I put my right foot on the ground it would hurt. It got to the point where I would flinch BEFORE I put my foot down. I anticipated the pain. Every. Other. Step.
The cast came off in late January.
I put on the shoes again – the shorts & the team jacket. I even put the team winter hat on. I didn’t need to. But I did it anyway. I wanted to feel like I was on the team. I wanted to feel like I had a purpose again.
Would it hurt?
I knew that I was going to start & finish this run at the same place. I knew I wouldn’t be gone long. I also knew I wouldn’t be the same when I got back.
I took a deep breath.
I know it now. I’m a runner.
You took it away. I want it back. Please. Give me this. Please.
I started down my front lawn.
It was the only run my Mom ever took a picture of. I didn’t even know it existed until she showed it to me after graduation 15 months later. Hundreds & hundreds of miles later. Miles without a flinch. State Championship miles. All American miles. So many miles.
None of them as special as this mile though.
And it was only half of one.