A year ago, I was in a very different place.
Just one year ago, I was newly injured. It was on March 21, 2011 - the first full day of spring - that I injured my Achilles. It's been a year, and I have not yet forgotten the pain.
It wasn't just a physical pain, either. There was some emotional pain, too. One race in particular - the Shamrock Shuffle in 2011 - eluded me.
It was held later in the season last year - mid-April - but still, there was no way the Achilles would accommodate. (I later learned I had a tear in the tendon, so it's no wonder it took a long time to heal.) The day I came to realize (with some good advice that was hard to hear) I wouldn't be able to run, I cried. Oh, who am I kidding; I wept childish tears. All I could see was hopes and dreams slipping away. What if that meant I couldn't do the half marathon? What if I gained weight? What if? What if? What if?
I came to accept it. I even went to the race to cheer for my friends. I sucked it up and enjoyed the day, hoping with all I had that the next year - this year - I would be able to do it.
And as luck would have it, I did physical therapy. I healed. I was able to do the half marathon. And last weekend, on March 25 - one year and four days after I injured my Achilles - I ran the Shamrock Shuffle.
The Shuffle is an 8K (4.97 miles) through downtown Chicago, lauded by many as the official beginning of race season in the city. And this year, I ran it.
Linda and me, pre-race. Dig the socks.
Close up on the socks. A thing of beauty, no?
The race was magical. At a little before the first half mile, I started feeling my left Achilles. Seriously? Sonofabitch. But I just acknowledged it, and let it go. If I felt pain, or anything dangerous, I would stop. But instead, I was able to run, smiling, for five miles.
Okay, maybe not the entire five miles. I did walk to the water stations, and up the hills at the end. But for the most part, I booked it steadily through the entire race. And I'm hard-pressed to think of I time when I'd felt happier, or more accomplished.
Setting goals is awesome. Achieving them? That's a whole 'nuther animal.
In the end, I finished the race in 1:06:21, or with roughly a 13-minute/20-second mile. A far cry from the girl who barely walked a 17-minute mile last May.
But it isn't about the time. It isn't even about the run. It's about the accomplishment; the ability of the human spirit to say, "Nope, sorry. I'm not done yet." And I'm not.
Not by a long shot.