Hobbled. Mentally and physically! This is how I diagnose my situation, my crisis of the moment.
I am in my ratty underwear early on a Sunday morning, half-lying over the kitchen counter and half-sitting on one of the counter stools. I woke to the constant throbbing of my left foot telling me to get up and take some aspirin and now am suffering from a daunting alcohol-induced headache warning me to go back to bed.
Essentially, I can’t lift my foot or raise my head. Call me Quasimodo. I have become the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
God, I need a shower. Get out of these funky clothes.
Had I any energy, I would rip off my underpants and throw them away.
I hate these old whities, which have become way too tight, the elastic band pressing deep into my stomach. Rather, I should sit here nude in the early morning light and allow the counter stool to cool my sorry-ass butt.
Go native for the world to see.
It’s too late though.
Indecency went out the door last night, along with the empty wine bottle. How late was it? I need to get that bottle before my wife comes downstairs and goes out to pick up the morning paper. Before the neighbors start waking up; before the lawnmowers kick in.
“Someone threw a wine bottle in our yard,” she will report in a huff to me lying prostrate over our kitchen counter, smelling of stale wine and sweaty underwear.
“On our cul de sac. Imagine. Did you hear anything last night?”
“Damn neighborhood kids,” that’s what I would say. Blame the next generation for their loose morals and infidelities, even if they like expensive wine. Kids these days, I swear!
Why is this marble counter so cold on my face? I need to open my eyes.
If I had any energy, I would suck down a bunch of ibuprofen.
I should get a shower, switch the shower head to “deep pulsation,” and lie down in the tub. How hard would it be to stick my leg up at the shower and let the pulsating water pound on my heel for hours. Or, maybe, stick my head on the drain. Allow the gurgling water to endlessly wash over the squishy gray matter of my fractured brain.
Wasn’t the wine last night a direct result of my injury?
Didn’t my doctor say, “To numb the pain, take ibuprofen, wear splints, and drink 750ml of California Merlot every Saturday night.”?
Well, maybe not the wine part, but, I swear, didn’t she say it was my duty to reduce the pain whenever necessary and however possible?
After months of trying it her way, wine seemed better than anything else.
Except last night.
Even now, early on a Sunday morning, it’s late September and hanging out in my horrible underwear, I am too far along, too far gone to care.
Hey, It’s not like I was begging for it, I mean, the foot injury. And who would have thought I would experience my worst injury ever – ever, ever, ever – after running on a treadmill. In fact, I am still not sure I had anything to do with it.
“It is not my fault,” I have repeatedly told my wife.
“Well, whose fault is it?”
“It’s my fucking foot’s fault. Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
This my story and I’m sticking with it.
My left foot now operates independently of me, and it’s being totally, totally ridiculous.
I simply was running on a treadmill when my foot shut down. A treadmill, big deal. Was that wrong? NO.
“What the fuck!” I think I said last night when I tried to stand after I woke up from a wine stupor in my easy chair.
Or was it, “Oh fuck!” when I stumbled from the pain of putting too much pressure on my foot and nearly fell face first onto the floor.
After that, pulling myself up, I thought I was going to die.
I recall needing some fresh air and hobbling to the front door, but I thought I had finished off that bottle.
Why else would I be clutching a wine bottle on my front porch in the dead of night?
Damn, I must have been really drunk. Throbbing foot and all.
Now I am lying head down on the counter, reassuring myself that this sad state of affairs is not just my cross to bear, but something that happens to all runners.
Injuries, I mean. Don’t all runners suffer – that is, all runners who happen to be aging too fast for their minds and body?
Don’t we all get injured, and don’t we all need a longer time to recover now that we are closer to the finish line than the starting pistol?
And sure, before my injury, I gained some weight (perhaps a bit more than I care to mention), especially since I ran the Boston Marathon ten months earlier, but nothing unusual and not so much (I swear) as to end up crippled, or, before that, being told by the gods who watch over my life (my wife and daughter) that I should not be running at all, especially since I was morphing into Quasimodo.
Look, of course, I was running. As I have said many times, my goal remains: run the Chicago, New York, Boston, Tokyo, Berlin, and London Marathons, the six major marathons of the world. And though the “over there” ones are still shimmering in the distance, like far off water stations, at no point did I give up on achieving these testaments to being alive, especially after already nearly killing myself running like a crazy man through the streets of Chicago, New York, and Boston.
Yes, I am one of those runners who simply can’t run out his or her backdoor and go down the cul de sac without some sort of grandiose plan, some life-changing, PBS-thing that ostensibly makes his or her life worth living. My goal is based on what an average guy, me, a guy who isn’t any better than any other guy running out his back door, can do out-of-the-blue, with no experience, and being seventy pounds overweight. My goal is to run six major marathons – oh, and live to tell about it. That’s important.
It is true, last fall, things fell apart after I decided it was too late to apply for Tokyo in February, or rather, it was too soon given how physically tired I was and, by this point, how much I hated running.
Yes, I agree, I gained some unnecessary and unneeded weight the moment I let go of applying to Tokyo. Yes, and without that immediate objective before me, I spiraled out of control throughout November and December. But it wasn’t all pasta, Merlot, and ice cream: over Christmas, for fun, my family and I, along with a few of our close friends, didn’t we run a Fun 5K for the local dog rescue mission and wasn’t that fun?
My time wasn’t so bad as to commit suicide, was it?
Okay, it wasn’t fun at all and my time sucked.
It certainly was an option given that eye-opening moment!
I realized, then, back in January, I had allowed myself to get too out of shape and, in truth, signing up for Berlin, the next race on my list, would be absolutely out of the question if I didn’t do something about my weight right then and there.
In February, I was making a comeback, I swear. I was running regularly on the treadmill at my gym.
But maybe I wasn’t running hard enough. Maybe I was running too infrequently for the distance I was running, but suddenly one Saturday, my left heel really hurt –I felt a searing pain shoot up my leg when I tried walking on it after getting off the treadmill.
I didn’t run the following week and, luckily, the pain went away. But when I ran five miles on the treadmill that next Saturday, suddenly I was in extreme agony. This time though, the red-hot fire in my left heel did not go away and continued to plague me through mid-March.
So, I went to see my doctor.
Did I mention my doctor is young and gorgeous and has a beautiful, lanky body and is also a long distance runner?
“This looks like a clear case of Plantar Fasciitis,” she said to me, getting ready to feel my unclothed foot, pushing back her long and shiny brunette hair. She gave me a look of condolence and a slight (sexy?) smile.
“Not much you can do about that but let it heal,” she said.
My problem is I need an old haggard doctor, like my old doctor back when I was a boy.
“Hey kid, open your mouth and shut up.”
Not someone with such nice, even, white teeth and sparkling eyes.
With her, I spend most of my time internally panting, like an idiot dog.
On my visit this time she was wearing a tight navy blue dress that stopped above her knees with a wide, black belt under an open white lab coat.
I swear, I should demand another doctor, someone who wears an old, faded hunting shirt with baggy overalls and talks about raccoons. Definitely not her.
When she bent over to examine my foot, my toes stood straight up!
I was sitting on the examination table: thinking she should zip up that lab coat so I could concentrate on what she was saying.
What was she saying?
“What? What did you call it? What the hell?”
I had never heard of such a thing.
“Essentially, a bone spur,” she said with a shrug, after pressing her thumbs into my sensitive heel.
She walked over to the little sink on the sidewall and washed her hands. “It will heal itself, but it will take time.” She turned to her clipboard and wrote something down.
“You can do a couple of things,” she said leaning over to the computer on the side table and printing off some papers.
“I am giving you a series of exercises that should reduce the pain,” she said, going on and on about giving my foot time to heal, getting special inserts for my shoes, and stretching my foot before getting out of bed in the morning or after I get up from my desk in the afternoon.
AND doing all sorts of things normal people do after they run, like stretching…
No, no, I wanted to focus on her, not on the possible long and painful road to recovery she was proposing with absolutely no simple solution in sight. No, no, this sounded awful.
Rather, I wanted to put my head on her shoulder and cry.
It’s easy for you, I thought, you are thin and beautiful and in your mid-thirties and have a body that begs to be inspected for injuries. For you, plantar fasciitis is just that, a momentary inconvenience.
But for me, old and crusty and in every way, way too erratic to experience such a calamity, it is likely the defining event that will lead to disaster, depression, growing doubts about the durability of my body, and a realization I could be long dead before I recover.
And, even more significantly, it could result in the inevitable return to my former self, the reemergence of Quasimodo Unbound.
I digested all of this, putting back on my sock and shoe, while my doctor told me how she had just run the Great Wall of China Marathon. She stood at the door, waiting for me to finish, and said it was a lot of fun and I should do it too.
“What?” I said standing up and immediately stumbling in pain.
She laughed and corrected herself, “Of course, that is, after you recover.”
I laughed too, then, and because it was a cool thing to say, mentioned my interest in the Antarctica Marathon. I knew she would be impressed with running twenty-six miles across huge piles of jagged ice and frozen penguins, and from her smile and the way she opened the door, I knew she was.
So, I added as I hobbled out of the room with her, “I want to dedicate my life to running marathons all over the world, hundreds of marathons, in every state and on every continent.”
In truth, the very idea sounded awful. I just wanted to go back to bed.
“That’s really cool,” she said, handing me my papers. “Well then, we better get that foot healed.”
I would like to believe I left my doctor with an unstated, but understood, commitment to be lovers after running the four desert marathons and climbing the three tallest mountains in the world.
I would like to believe it would be just us. Forget my wife and daughter. They didn’t understand what we shared between us. They weren’t runners. Who cared if I would be in my nineties by the time I accomplished these tasks, especially with this fucking foot? We were marathoners after all.
But first, in my hands as I walked away, I held her papers highlighting a series of horrible exercises that would I would need to attempt twice-a-day to reduce the pain in my heel.
No prescriptions for foot-saving drugs, but a strong admonition to lose some weight and an appointment for a colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy was not a surprise.
Every time I see her I end up with some guy’s fingers up my butt.
And now, entering my eighth month of recovery with no end in sight, having heard what my beautiful doctor had to say in March, having confirmed her prognosis with my eighteen-year-old running store guy in April, which, as always, ends in the purchase of a new pair of running shoes, and having commiserated with a ton of friends and family over the summer, all whom suddenly announced they too have had Plantar Fasciitis and suggested all sorts of home remedies, I realize in the light of dawn in September, banging the side of my head repeatedly against the kitchen counter while slouched over in my too-tight underpants, heavier than I have been in years, my left heel throbbing in pain, unable to run a mile without hobbling to a complete stop, I have screwed things up, screwed things up to the point of insanity.
This is why I was on my front porch late last night howling at the moon, flinging my bottle out at the world and deep into the grass, this is why guys like me don’t jog out their backdoors and run six major marathons around the world. This is why local 5Ks are supposed to be fun.
Yes, old Quasimodo has done it royally this time, and I am totally, totally fucked.