The Best Me
My running career is on hold. To be honest, it’s likely on retirement. My Taekwondo career is pretty much the same way and so is my squash enjoyment. You see, a left knee injury has resurfaced and is causing pain to the point that I was limping everyday. I’ve seen an orthopedic surgeon and he’s prescribed sessions of physical therapy, given me my first ever cortisone shot and I’m seeing him in two weeks for a follow-up.
I’ve always had knee issues. I had Osgood-Schlatter Disease growing up. In April 1996 (or was it 1995) I was knocked out at The Big East Taekwondo Championship and landed on my right knee. That freak landing resulted in a partially torn ACL. I never had surgery but I did go through several weeks of PT. The day before my final PT visit, I blew out my left knee playing a football (soccer) match with friends at Brookdale Park in Bloomfield, New Jersey. I was dribbling the ball into the final third when my leg, from the knee to my foot, didn’t move forward. The rest of my me, from the knee up, went forward after the ball tearing the joint’s meniscus.
Recently, with nowhere to train properly in Taekwondo, I decided to put Taekwondo on the back-burner and started running again; in the hope of qualifying for the 2017 NY City Marathon and to lose weight and, once and for all, get back into fitness. Generally, things were looking good until about two or three weeks ago when my left knee started hurting. The pain subsided and I continued to train and play squash until, after a four mile training run, I was laid up the rest of the day. I took a week off before doing a three-mile taper. My knee flared up so I took the rest of the week off before running my scheduled race – The Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, a five-miler that starts the New York City Marathon week of activities and events. The resulting pain was sharp and forced me to limp. It was so bad that whenever I had to get up and walk, I’d have to stand up slowly, allow blood to get to the joint and then inch my way onward.
Now, having seen the doctor and gotten my meds and shot, I’ve been given the green light to do some elliptical training and stationary bike riding but nothing with impact – like running and squash and Taekwondo. Being in this condition - able to walk and not limp, thanks to prescribed anti-inflammatories and the cortisone shot, but always fearful of my knee giving in, I’ve been forced to accept a number of things.
First, I have to accept that I’m simply getting older. Even if I weren’t injured or out of shape, I am older than when I last seriously trained for a marathon and put everything else on hold. Even then I was full of recovering injuries! Second, I need to be more humble and respectful of the marathon distance; something I am horrified to admit because I’ve always been respectful of it. Even though I’m heavier and not in any kind of running shape, I eased into base training and into my proper training plan like I’d done it all before. In some way, I have done it all before but, this time, I relied too much on muscle memory and my own grit and my Taekwondo-inspired indomitable spirit and my high pain threshold to forge ahead. Full speed ahead and all that! Stupid. Third, and finally, I have to find a different path. Maybe I can still run again and train in Taekwondo and play squash. Maybe I can’t. If I can, I have to be the best I can be of the me I am now and not the me I was twenty or thirty or even just ten years ago. Life goes forward and not backward. And so must I.
At forty-seven, this is a lesson I should’ve probably learnt years ago. Instead, I’ve held on to the past and tried to be the best of the ‘me’ I was then. When I became a husband, and then a father, my life ceased being my own. If I’m going to be completely honest, it never truly has been just mine. It has and always will be God’s, my family’s, my friends’, my students’, my athletes’ and others’. After all, whenever we enter someone’s world and they enter ours and we do so sincerely, don’t we become part of that person and he or she becomes a part of us?
Today, while I am still trying to lose weight and get back into fitness, I am starting to try and be more accepting of whom I am and what I am. I do this for my sake and my own piece of mind. I do it, for wife and my son because, you see, they’re who my life belong to now and they need me; the best me of today and tomorrow.