it appeared just like all my favorite ghosts do; it was just there one day. i didn’t step awkwardly into a divot, or run too fast to cross a street before a car smeared me into raspberry-blood jelly, or push myself up one-too-many stairs in the pursuit of finding strength that my body doesn’t possess. i just went for a normal run, felt fine afterwards, stretched, showered, and a few hours later i noticed "huh, my knee feels kind of swollen" and that was it.
the next day my knee was still swollen and tender, but i had a mileage number to hit that week, so i kitted up and hit the road, hoping that i’d be able to "run it out," very much with the backwards + stupid thinking that a little hair of the dog that bit ya will fix whatever currently ails you.
surprise surprise, after a week of running on a bad knee i could barely walk by the weekend. it didn’t matter to me in that moment; i hit my weekly mileage. i'd figure out next week when next week began. of course, i’d miss my mileage for many of the next weeks to come.
i found myself in a position i did not want to be in: i’d have to adjust to non-running life. it sounds easy enough; most people don’t run. they live non-running life every single day. happy, sad, bored, naked, whatever. they do it no problem. but i can't seem to cope with that life.
i'd lost my outlet for pent up energy, my meditative alone time, my caloric expenditure that allowed me to "not give a shit" about what i ate on a given day, my allotted podcast listening time, my six-miles-an-hour-patrol to keep myself in the loop of the goings on of my town and the neighboring towns, the one thing that truly centered me.
to find something that gives you the inner space to ultimately try to be the best version of yourself, and then to lose it…well that shit sucks. i felt adrift, floating through the world like some fucking normie who gets out of the breath walking up the stairs to their apartment.
like some regular joe who's going to wake up one day and realize that his ankles are completely shot and he's 60 pounds overweight and his taxes are late and his kids hate him.
just a normal guy who reads in the paper that the planet is getting dangerously warmer and a few countries are at war and could drop nukes at any second and a new super-flu is rampaging through the world and we found aliens, like literally a super-powered alien species that is so, so much more advanced than we are and we're basically just hoping and praying they don't choose to wipe us out as easily you'd squish a little ant with your shoe that's invaded your kitchen, and all of this is happening, all these existential threats and things that keep us collectively awake at night because i can't go for a jog four to six times per week through my town.
i'm sorry, planet earth. i wish i could get out there and crush big miles too.
the happy, beautifully redemptive version of this story ends with me waking up one day and the pain in my knee is gone, much to my own disbelief. i cautiously put on my running gear and head out for an easy tester, and after a while as my watch beeps to indicate another mile has passed underneath my feet, i look up over the treeline and see the top edge of the sun peaking his head, the sunrise filling me with energy and emotion and my eyes water as i pick up the pace in my legs and let out a joyful, primal scream as i connect with the earth in a way that our species has done for the entirety of our existence.
but reality is often more mundane and cruel to us, despite the stories we invent of our lives. i tried to go out for tester runs every other week for months, but my knee would give out after each run. it would hurt every day, unable to fully extend, unable to fully support my weight, unable to do this, unable to do that.
it’s been scary, depressing, joyless. i have to think about every other step with great intention; my mind always running on a lower gear to make sure that i don’t over stretch or awkwardly pivot so that my knee gets worse. the constant hum of thinking about something every second of every day slowly creeping me to the edge of an existence that i don't want to keep existing within if my one little sack of bones and cartilage doesn't feel good enough to go outside and run up and down suburban hell.
i’m not going to be stopped, not because i’m some indefatigable force or some mythical runner who exists only to traverse the land, but because i’m stubborn and i like running and i’m a stupid human who gets to choose his own demise. the road ahead is long and i’ve got a bum knee, but i will keep shuffling along.