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After a Big Injury, Just a Five-Minute Run

Kelly Cordes  /  September 24, 2010  /  3 Min Read  /  Trail Running

Kc - glacier run P1030365(LR) You won’t run again.

I don’t really set concrete goals. In fact, I find it best to have no goals whatsoever; that way I won’t be disappointed if I don’t reach them.

Hopefully some hiking by mid-summer, and some easy climbs by fall.

Seriously, for me the goals are more of a process than an end point. Cliché, I know. But it’s weird how I can have certain ambitions or goals, and once I reach them I’ll allow a moment of satisfaction and enjoy a marg, but mostly I want to move on.

I want to run again. Even just a little.

The long grind of recovery. Mental, physical, emotional. Sometimes it’s like the mind games I play with myself in training, when I’m trying to push myself to become better. The little voice that’s always there, sometimes taunting, sometimes encouraging, that helps drive me.

[Kelly trail running in Glacier National Park, MT. Photo: Cordes collection]

The most improbable thing I’ll do seriously again is run. Given the degree of destruction in my ankle and the impact of running, it’s highly unlikely. Maybe a tiny bit, but I know it will never be the same. I accept that it will never be the same. I can still hike approaches and climb. So it goes; we adjust to our realities.

I’m psyched, so grateful, I should be happy. I am happy. But content? Sometimes. . . . The other day that little voice hit me: OK, dude, time to try to run. Just five minutes.

I tied my shoes and walked to the trail.
Relax, ignore the stiffness, loosen up, forefoot strike, OK, you’re moving, doing good, one minute…two minutes…feeling better, three…feeling warm and loose in there, nice . . .

Kc - stitched IMG_2030(LR) Since breaking my leg I hadn’t run more than 100 yards, and it was a pathetic, peg-leg gimpy hundred yards.

Only two more minutes, cool, this was a good start. Baby steps.

You have to know when it’s wise to stop, smart to retreat, better to quit than to continue. Injury, overtraining, harm and death tend to be quite disadvantageous to one’s goals.

Whoa, suddenly I’m at six, that’s more than half to 10 – 10!! OK, yes, go for 10 then…

Most often, though, I think – I know – most people quit way too early. I do it, too. We make excuses for ourselves, nurture our inner child or whatever, cuddle up with a half-gallon of fudge ice cream and tell ourselves it’s OK.

Ten, yes, I feel good – and before I know it it’s 11 minutes, so might as well do 15, yeah, c’mon, that’s only an extra five minutes, breathe, stay light, you’re OK, you waste five minutes in an hour on Facebook you lazy bastard.

People say fear is a bad thing; I think it’s a good thing. “It’s all good, brah,” works for me only when ambition doesn’t matter. I’m terrified of losing the ability to do what I love.

At 15 I'm too far from the trailhead, got a hitch in my stride at some moments. Of course I do, I have a broken leg but quit thinking it’s OK, OK, OK, keep moving, breathe, yes, other moments feel like magic…

Doing extra helps drive the body and mind, even though something like a short run, or just one more pitch at the end of the day, means nothing in itself. It still means something.

OK, here comes the trailhead, it'll be like 17-something, sweet! But at 17:40: Another 2:20 and it'll be the most badass thing I've done in awhile. Never run again, never run again.

And I turn away from the trailhead and run some more even though its really nothing at all – or it used to be nothing at all.

Trailhead, 20:10. I cool-down with a walk around the block, gimping just a little, smiling the whole time.

That’s nothing, dude, and you know it.

Yes, I know. It was just a five-minute run. Next time I’ll try for ten.

[The Frankenfoot after Kelly’s third surgery. Photo: Cordes collection]

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