[Brief background. While in Scotland on a trail run in May of 2015 I fell and hit my left knee HARD on a rock. Ended up with a big cut and nothing else….so I thought. Since then the pain in my knee has been creeping up in intensity to the point of causing me to limp in the mornings or stop in the middle of my runs. Over the last two months I finally did something about, seeing the orthopedist, getting an MRI, and having a surgical consult. This post is about the next step psychologically, not physiologically]
She stated firmly, “Nobody wants to read a blog post about an injury”. Like most things I realized Bridget was right (thats why I’ll marry her). So instead of writing about acquiring a potentially life changing injury, I’ll write about the prospect of losing a significant part of my life. Thats inspiring, right?
The last couple months my Strava page is beginning to look like that of a technophobe. As my kudos numbers atrophy away I wonder what other people think. Are they thinking that I’m doing “secret training” (pre-Strava, called training). I imagine once a week, on a group run people asking aloud, “What happened to Matt Laye”. However, in reality its more like off of Strava out of mind and thats the crux of my problem. Without running, who am I?
I secretly hope that my cartilage is superhuman and unlike those of others which are incapable of repairing themselves, but deep done I am starting to come to grasp with my own mortality in a purely running sense. Bone on bone lack of cartilage does not repair itself, it breaks down until you need a repair. At the moment all repairs are temporary despite some amazing treatments being developed. I imagine no number of second opinions will make me insured for experimental treatments reserved for multi-million dollar athletes and those who live moment to movement with excruciating pain. So, I’m again faced with the question, without running, what do I do?
Now that I live in Boise I have a number of ways to reinvent myself. Amazing mountain biking trails, skiing 15 miles from my front door, rock climbing 20 minutes away, and even a triathlon scene that is welcoming and down to earth. But on a day like today when I get back from work tired and beat down its always a run that beats that beer in the fridge (at least initially). For the last 20 plus years its on the trail and the road on my two feet which helps troubles, seasons, and time pass effortlessly. Its comforting, its familiar, so its not just who am I or what will I do that I ask, but what will I become.
I’m fascinated by self-improvement. Devouring books like “The Willpower Instinct”, “The Power of Habit”, and “Mindset”. I listen to podcasts about happiness, so called deconstructing world class performers, and improving my teaching constantly in my ears. So I know a beginners mindset is a good thing. Trying new things, stretching yourself, and even failing all make you stronger. But yet even thinking about letting go of running, of that massively important part of my ego, source of happiness, friendships and successes, is downright terrifying regardless of the benefits I fully know and truly believe await me.
Filling the void left by running is so much more than finding a competitive outlet. As my high school coach Brian Davis said, “running is not a sport, its a lifestyle” and its been my lifestyle for so long. Hence if I was a runner, who am I now, and more importantly who will I become. I know that feeling a void left by running includes try to come to grasp with Matt Laye the non-runner and coming up with a better blog subtitle than “Adventures in non-running by a scientist”. For now know that I’m not secret training offline.
[Post Update: August 27th, 2017. I recognize now that running is not what defines me, nor is the non-running options that I thought about so hard. This entire time I was not asking the right question. This idea of “I”, “self”, and ego are not the correct things to focus on. As my meditation has deepened and my reading of stoic philosophy increased I am starting to understand that what I can’t control does not define me. The self is an illusion that we try to aspire to when all we have is our thoughts and physically being in this specific moment. So I am not a runner, or a scientist, or a teacher, but I am me in this moment as much as I can be without as little ego as possible]