Saturday and, once again, I am sleeping in. Today the team will walk 20 miles. I, on my own, will try to get to three. There’s no point in waking at 5:30.
I’m scared of these three miles, scared I can’t do them, or that I’ll start hurting somewhere alone, so I enlist my friend An’nisa to walk with me. An’nisa has done a marathon, does lots of yoga, and, more importantly, is a wise woman who knows her body well. When I called her to ask, to tell her I’ve been off my feet, she made me elevate them immediately. Not on a pillow but up, up on the wall, high above my head. “You can agree or disagree later,” she says firmly. “Just listen to Mother Nature now.” She stayed on the phone with me until the 20 minutes were up, until I’d gently brought my feet back down and could stand on them again. She’s been checking on me ever since.
We meet at her house and walk up to Washington. It’s a beautiful residential street lined with wide old trees. “You need the oxygen,” she insists. “It will help your body heal.” We walk slowly, talking little. I tend to talk, but An’nisa wants me to pay more attention. “You’re coming off an injury; listen to your body. Notice how you’re walking. How your foot is hitting the ground, where the weight is going. Listen to your rhythm.”
We actually go about two miles out before I feel the warning tug: this is the turn-around point. Beyond this you won’t get back. I say as much, and she suggests that I rest for a moment, feet up on a tree. So we rest. I’m lying back on a patch of grass with my feet stretched up against a tree. An’nisa curls in around back like a mama bear watching her cub. After about 10 minutes, we start back.
Next week, the team is scheduled for the Palos Verde Half Marathon as training. “The race before the race,” they call it. Because PV is a hard, hilly course, it’s supposed to help estimate our ultimate marathon time. I don’t want to miss it, but I don’t know how I’ll get there. Four miles, with a rest, was just a victory. But I’m grateful to be walking again. We celebrate with breakfast.
The next few days I manage two to four miles each. Then Wednesday, in the acupuncture waiting room, browsing through a copy of Organic Style, I come across, of all things, a Zuni Runner’s Prayer: “I’m thankful to have legs to run; I’m thankful to have breath to breathe; I’m thankful I have eyes to see. I am seeking the fullness of life. I’m thankful I have ears to hear; I’m thankful I have knees to bend. I am seeking the fullness of life.”
The next day I walk my version of that prayer. I am thankful I have feet to walk; I am thankful I have legs to carry me; I am thankful I have breath to breathe. I am seeking the fullness of life. And I go on and on recounting my blessings in this path. I am thankful. I am thankful. I am thankful. Then, slowly, it shifts into a prayer of affirmation. I walk softly on the Earth. The Earth rises up to meet me. The wind carries me forward, fills my lungs with breath. Blood and energy flow freely like water. Fire fuels my intention. My mother walks with me. My family walks with me. Spirit walks with me. I am supported. I am a child of the elements. I am a child of God. Meandering in and out of prayer and gratitude and the blessings of the moment, I walk five miles.
In 2005, I stunned myself by signing up to walk the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon on behalf of the American Stroke Association. This post is one of a series of reflections and Training Tales from that time. The whole series begins here.