I don’t know exactly when I injured it–there wasn’t an RGIII moment (Google that at your own peril), I felt no pop or twist or crack, there wasn’t a before and an after. But sometime in eighth or ninth grade, I noticed pain under my left kneecap when I ran the dreaded mile-and-a-half in P.E. class. The unexplained injury and an orthopedist’s note exempting me from running gave me an excuse to half-ass any further attempts at real exercise.
In 2000, I had arthroscopic surgery to clean up some cracked cartilage, which gave me more excuses to maintain comfortable inactivity. But now, with my knee again giving me problems, I am not repeating these old patterns.
After my failed run on Tuesday, my sports doctor recommended I take the rest of the week off from running. The old me might have used that as an excuse to sit around watching Netflix. But this time I found other ways to work on fitness and endurance. Wednesday night M and I biked 12 miles, Thursday I went to core class, and this morning the whole family went back to the trail for a 13.5-mile bike ride.
It was another unseasonably cool morning–75* when we left the house at 10am–and I was disappointed to miss a nicer-than-usual-for-this-time-of-year running morning due to this frustrating knee problem. But a bike ride with the family turned out to be a pleasant substitute.
We started at mile marker 0.0. The first three miles follow a wide concrete path I’ve run a hundred times. Today it was crowded with cyclists, runners, and walkers, so we had to be careful. I taught B to announce “On your left!” before he passed someone, and for the most part people stayed out of each other’s way. A couple of times, dog-walkers allowed their leashes to extend far enough for the dog to become an obstacle, and occasionally families walked three abreast, leaving no room to pass. And once, on a bridge just around a blind corner, a toddler wandered from one side of the bridge to the other, right in front of me. I was scared I’d take him out, but I managed to stop in time.
B was a bit disadvantaged on his one-speed BMX bike. The trail has quite a few up- and downhills where I changed gears, but he was stuck either windmilling his legs or struggling up a hill. But he powered through with only a few complaints.
The other day, we turned around just short of the six-mile marker. Today we decided to see what the next mile or so of the trail looked like, thinking we’d turn around at seven miles. Turns out, it ends just past the 6.75 marker. So that’s where we turned back, giving us 13.5 for the day. A half-marathon!
I’m still frustrated by my knee, but I’m holding out (perhaps irrational) hope that I will see improvement after another week of treatment, and that it’s not a recurrence of that 30-year old problem. And if I’m lucky, I can run next week.
If I’m lucky. That’s a far cry from the way the old me would have handled an injury. I suppose with age comes enlightenment. But with age also comes the realization that 1984 was thirty years ago.