Beauty in the Broken

running shoes

Confession time: I feel a little sad every time I wear these shoes. I bought them while training for the St. Jude half marathon and then only a few weeks later had to stop running altogether because of problems with my hip. When I wear these shoes, they’re a reminder of what I didn’t accomplish. They’re a reminder of a dream unfulfilled (I know, it’s so unfair to my poor shoes to put such a weight on them!). I look wistfully at social media posts of runners posting about their latest run or their most recent race experience, and I remember when I used to do those things. Now I think of my running in the past tense. I WAS a runner.

It’s been 6 months since my last run. I don’t know when I will be able to run again, as I’m currently dealing with pain in both of my hips, pain that I experience with simple tasks like walking around the grocery store or sitting at my desk at work. It’s very tempting to live in a place of negativity and to let reminders of what I can’t do stagnate me. But I can’t let my discouragement about my health shape how I approach all parts of my life. I have to place my hope in what I know to be a strong and true foundation. Ultimately, all of our bodies are broken, and they will let us all down some day. So while my flesh and my heart may fail, I must let God be the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I must choose joy. I must choose hope. I must choose gratitude. I will ask God to redeem what is broken and make it beautiful.

And the next time I wear these shoes, they will remind me to be grateful for the body I have, for the legs and feet that support me, and for the faith that keeps me walking when I’d rather just give up.

Psalm 147:3: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Hip, Hip, No Way

Well, hello there.

When we last met, I was in the middle of training for the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon. It was going to be my big comeback race after months of being sidelined because of ulcerative colitis. I was running regularly, albeit slowly, and I was excited about crossing that finish line.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, I haven’t run in over 2 months due to hip and low back pain. I have had pain since summer 2013, but it was sporadic and not terrible. Then when I started running consistently again in summer 2014, I noticed the pain starting to increase, and before I knew it, it was a daily occurrence. Still, I kept running because I didn’t feel too bad when I was actually running, and I really wanted to run that half marathon. However, the pain started creeping in during my runs, and I started trimming the distance here and there. At the advice of my physical therapist, I took a full week off from running in October with the intention of trying a long run again after the break. Unfortunately, the 8 miles I had hoped to run turned into 3 because of the pain in my hip. It was then I knew that I wouldn’t be running the half marathon. I had missed too many long runs and lost too much training time. I chose not to run the half.

One of my last runs, on my birthday.

One of my last runs, on my birthday.

In the meantime, I went to an orthopedic doctor and got MRIs of my hip and back. I found out that I have arthritis in my back and trochanteric bursitis in my hip. The MRI was also suggestive of a labral tear but not conclusive, and my doctor does not seem to want to pursue that. I got one steriod injection in my hip 2 weeks before Christmas to see if that would help the near-constant pain in my hip subside. Sometimes these injections can last for 6 months or more, so I was hoping the shot would work and I could think about resuming running in the near future. Unfortunately, I only had moderate pain relief for about a week before I felt exactly as I had before getting the shot. On Monday I went back to the doctor and received a second injection in a different area of my hip. I felt immediate pain relief and was really excited, only to have the pain return again. Now I am 5 days out from that injection and wondering if this will be another failed attempt. I am not really sure where to go from here, but I am considering seeking a second opinion depending on what the doctor offers at my follow-up appointment on January 14.

Honestly, I feel like a wimp. I am a member of a running group on Facebook, and there are some pretty hardcore runners in that group, runners who have run every day for a year or more. They have run through a variety of challenging circumstances. I wanted to be like them, but I wasn’t. Could I have completed the half marathon? I don’t know. It would have been painful for sure, but I could have gotten myself across the finish line if I really wanted to. But at the time, I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with my hip and back, and I was worried about doing further damage if I kept running on it.

I felt at peace with my decision at first, but on the day of the race, I was anything but peaceful. I was downright sad and questioning my decision. I still don’t know if I did the right thing, but I do know this: there will be other races, but I only have one body. I have to believe that with time I can make it across another finish line. I don’t know when or how, especially since I’m not even cleared to run right now and walking doesn’t feel great either, but it will happen.

Until then, I have to redirect my focus. More on that to come. 🙂 Happy New Year!

Identity Crisis

Every time I run, I have an identity crisis. Part of me thinks, “It feels so good to be running! I love this!” Unfortunately, that part is often drowned out by the other part of me, which often thinks variations of the following:

I wonder how much my fat is jiggling right now.”
“Is my shirt riding up in the back? I wish I could lose this stinking weight so my clothes would fit better.”
“If I were faster, this run would be over a lot sooner.

Even though I am out there doing the physical activity of running, I often don’t feel like a runner. I don’t look like a runner. I am not skinny. If a stranger were to look at me, I am fairly certain that he or she would not think, “She looks like a runner.” Whenever someone in my “real life” finds out that I run, I immediately grow self-conscious about it and wonder if that person is thinking to themselves that I don’t look anything like a runner.

I know this line of thinking is foolish, as the reality is that no one spends as much time thinking about me as I do. No one really cares whether I run or not. So why do I obsess over how I look, both as a runner and in general?

Last night when Charlotte and I got home, she asked to go run with me. So I changed my clothes, and we set out. We ended up not running much at all and instead walked holding hands. Towards the end of our walk, I challenged her to race me back to the house, and so she started running, hair flying behind her, eyes alight with joy, laughter spilling out of her as I closed in on her. At one point she said, “You’re the fastest ever, Mama!” Even though I knew that to be far from true, my heart was so encouraged. When Charlotte looks at me, she doesn’t know that I don’t look like a stereotypical runner. She just sees her mama, who also happens to run, and she loves me. In that moment, I wasn’t thinking about how I looked or what people would think of my stride or my running posture or my weight. I was too busy caught up in the joy of seeing my daughter love something that I love.

There’s a line in the movie Chariots of Fire, when Eric Liddell describes his passion for running by saying, “When I run, I feel His [God’s] pleasure.” The pleasure of God is what I should be after, not the approval of man. I want to chase after God, and I want Charlotte to do the same.

I pray that Charlotte and I have a lot more runs like these. I pray that I pass on to her a love of running and a love of Christ. And I pray that I can run the race of faith–the only race that matters–well.