They say addicts never really recover. Once you’re hooked the desire never really goes away, you just constantly struggle to resist. Alcohol, Cheesy Poofs, Beverly Hills 90210. I’ve only fallen prey to one of those. OK, maybe two. They were just flings.
But I’m a junkie for one thing: the track. I totally adore everything about the little quarter-mile of heaven.
The accompanying photo is from around 2003 or so. My friend Toru, a photog at my paper, had come to the track to climb up in the bleachers for some photos of an approaching storm. An Ironman triathlete, he glanced occasionally at the runner relentlessly rounding the track again and again despite the near-certain impending death from lightning. That runner was me. I always loved that photo for its purity. Just a guy on a lonely track running. I can think of nothing better. I spent years running almost exclusively on that track.
This is the same track where my ITBS made its spectacular debut. I was gliding along one sunny day when an ice pick landed firmly in the side of my leg. I immediately shifted into neutral, bending over in disbelief. Limp, stop. Shuffle, stop. The football team’s trainer came over with his cart to ask if I wanted a ride back to the start, roughly an eighth-mile away. It was that bad.
One crazy-long rehab later, I knew that my love affair with the track was not to be. The constant turns are the worst thing I can do to my shaky legs. The best thing: The treadmill. A new relationship was born.
The treadmill has been a faithful partner. Countless miles, no pain. But now and then I find myself in a moment of weakness.
Today was one of those days. Mo had to return a book to the library near the track. It was a glorious sunny day. I hadn’t run yet. What could it hurt? I’ve been pain free for so long.
So like an aging alt-rocker with a spoon and a memory, I found myself back at the SCC track. It was just the way I left it. That magical mix of people. The absolute worst field-goal kicker I’ve ever seen (isn’t the ball supposed to be airborne at some point?) Two 8-year-old tennis players running 400 intervals under the watchful eye of their coach. A fast young guy running. A slow old guy walking. An amazing day.
I began running, because I’m a runner, and that’s what runners do. The first four laps melted away. I felt great. On the fifth lap I felt a twinge. On the sixth lap, the ice pick.
Resisting the urge to run past the pain, I limped home to fight another day.
I miss hanging out at the track so much. But not the ice pick.
It sucks to be a junkie. But oh for just one more Cheesy Poof …