A Runner’s Body

My body, objectively speaking, is not a runner’s body. I was born wrong. By the time other kids were crawling, I was pushing myself on my butt. By the time other kids were running around and ahead of their parents during walks, I was complaining of pain. By the time other kids reached their high school athletic bests, I broke down and was wheeled into a hospital in a wheelchair. The pain was so strong I doubted I’d ever get back up.

My body, objectively speaking, is not a runner’s body. I have a few extra rolls front and back. I have a bust that’s hard to ignore when running. I have a few extra pounds that slow me down, add extra strain on my legs, and require me to push down more nutrition to keep going during long-distance runs.

My body, objectively speaking, is not a runner’s body. My joints are weak. Hypermobility makes itself known every waking hour, and sometimes even when I sleep. I get tired, even after I rest. I keep getting pain and stiffness in my joints and muscles. My balance is off, together with coordination. And my SI joints like to move freely around, causing excruciating pain here and there.

There’s no cure for joint hypermobility. The joints are loose and stretchy because the ligaments that should support them are weak. The weakness is because the collagen that strengthens the ligaments is different from other people’s. (source)

The one thing I can do is try and strengthen my muscles so that they’re strong enough to do the ligaments’ job of keeping my body together. I’ve had physiotherapists, I’ve gone to chiropractors. I had exercises designed specifically for my lower back, exercises to improve my stability, exercises for this and that.

After my first big injury, I had to stop dancing. I couldn’t play floorball. I was told to stop doing a lot of things. But nobody thought to tell me I couldn’t run because A) I hated running at that time and B) I could barely walk half a mile. I was 17 years old. Now, at 24, I still haven’t asked if I can run, and I don’t plan on doing so.

After having to let go of all the other things I loved, I found a place of comfort in a thing I once hated. Four and a half years after thinking I wasn’t going to get up again, I stepped on a trail, planning to go for a walk and, instead, running. Only the redwood trees witnessed the moment I found my new dream.

I don’t have any more spare dreams hanging in my closet. There’s only the fear that I’ll die without fulfilling a single one. And I don’t have a spare body hanging in there, either. Only the knowledge that this one might stop working at any time. And so I won’t ask if I can run. I’ll just do it. Slower than the others. Perhaps with a few more hurdles, with a few more rocks and roots thrown under my feet, intending to trip me.

But if you know me, you also know that I live for difficult, technical trails. Trails that require such focus that everything else fades away. Trails that require the same focus that getting back up from that chair required. And so, no matter how many roots and rocks I find on the trails, I will keep going.

Because even though I’m not the fastest, not the fittest, not the aptest to run, I’m still a runner. And because this is my body, then maybe, just maybe, it is a runner’s body after all.

Running up Mt Tamalpais under the Big Dipper
Photo by Katherine “Kk” Fisher

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