07/26/2013 11:31 am ET Updated Sep 25, 2013

The Perils Of Being a Closet Runner


OK, so I'm a closet runner. I can't help myself. A quick jog in the wild here and there unites me with something that nothing else can. Maybe it's a little bit of the, Women Who Run With The Wolves, thing.

During my twenties and thirties, I was dependent on the buzz of lacing up my running shoes and hitting the pavement to keep me sane. Then came that gnarly flu that morphed into walking pneumonia, a consequence of running in the rain while coughing up a storm. Not to mention the dreaded words from two doctors when I limped into their offices with acute pain in my hips. "Bursitus," said one, "Hip replacement," said the other. "Oh shit," said me. I decided it was time to quit running for a while.

My forties found me entrenched in aikido and a little dojo on Washington Boulevard in Culver City. I couldn't get enough of being thrown around by masculine men in white pajamas and black Hakamas. Men and women who could bring me to my knees in pain with a simple flick of a wrist chose instead to teach me strength through the art of communication.

When my family and I moved from Los Angeles to the little hamlet of Ojai, I began the midlife occupation of walking with my women friends and our dogs. But a few months ago, I felt little niggles in my brain, tempting me with euphoric lines from, The Way Of The Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman's book that got me hooked on running in the first place.

While in Tasmania recently, my mum's farm beckoned me to run from the moment I arrived. No warm-up, no sweater, barely dawn, and six degrees Celsius. Stupid, right? Yes, very stupid, but my logic was taken over by the beauty of the land. Halfway up the road I felt a familiar twinge when my foot slipped on uneven ground, but being the stubborn ass that I can be, I tucked the pain away and focused on how good it felt to be running in cold weather again. The next morning brought lower temperatures and spasms in my back, so I stretched and took things slowly for a few days until the tweaks went away.

Back in California, I decided to add running, along with swimming and lifting weights, into my workout routine. When my husband saw me in running shorts, a tank top and lacing up my running shoes, he asked, "Honey, do you think that's a good idea? Your track record of running and injuries hasn't been that good." I looked up at him and answered with the tone of a sassy teenager, "Oh, I'll be fine. Don't' worry, I'm taking it easy."

Next, I chose to add the element of music to my morning jaunts. Perhaps not such a good idea for me, as I tend towards being easily distracted by anything from ants, birds, dogs and men with six-packs. For my earbud/iPod debut, I played it safe and hit the local public high school running track. The first quarter mile was spent figuring out a way to keep from strangling myself with the earbud cord, but by the end of mile two, I had this running with music thing down.

A few days later, I decided to tackle a musical run on the bike path. It was time. I was ready for this. Two minutes into it, I tripped on uneven ground and found to my horror that I was flying in slow motion, arse over tits toward the ground. I landed hard and heavy.

The immediate prognosis was not good. My right foot was in pain and tucked under my body somewhere where it probably shouldn't have been. After muttering curses at the ground, I dragged myself indignantly over to a bridge by the bike path. Pulling myself up, I gently placed my right foot on the ground. It hurt like hell, but I figured I could walk on it, which I did, up the path a few meters before a message to my brain alerted me to the fact that liquid was running down my left leg.

My eyes looked at the river of blood flowing from my knee, it wasn't pretty. I was too mad and embarrassed to call my husband, so I texted my son and he came and picked me up. When I arrived home, my husband took one look at my knee and said that I needed to go to the doctor and that he would drive me. "Nonsense," I said, "Just cut off that piece of skin and clean it up, it'll be OK." My husband's color went a little pale, and then came the argument about getting to the doctor. I insisted on driving myself, after all, I wasn't in that much pain and I had a meeting to get to later that morning.

By the time the beautiful, caring, Nurse Debbie came in to see me and place ice on my ankle, something quite strange was taking over my body, it was pain -- a lot of it. My nurse practitioner entered and suggested a shot of Demerol followed by three x-rays, a prescription for antibiotics and pain meds. I was a mess. The word "shit" took over my vocabulary and tears flowed down my face. My husband appeared, explaining that he should have insisted he drive. "Well, I wasn't in pain until I got here," I said through a break in sobs. "You were in shock," said Nurse Debbie. To which I said something like, "shit, shit, shit." Charming stuff.

So, here I am the next day, in bed with my ankle elevated and stuff oozing out of my knee. No broken bones, just a lot of tissue damage. My darling husband is a star, bringing me ice, wrapping my ankle and presenting me with a set of crutches. He hasn't mentioned anything about my running mishaps and I appreciate that. Although he did say that he managed to get the blood stains out of my new running shoes. I'm thinking that using an iPod while running isn't such a good idea for me. Well, maybe I'll let myself use it on the running track, I mean really, what could go wrong there?