Over the course of 17 years of running (started at age 8) I had never been injured. Sure I had been tired, sore, probably over-trained but I was never out-right injured. Watching so many good athletes get side-lined by injuries, some career ending, was something I thought I would never worry about. I was strong and could endure a lot of miles and really didn't need much recovery time. I was running a 15k race, against an elite field of runners with a decent prize purse. I was running what I felt was the race of my life and was leading by about a minute at the 10k mark. I was sure I was going to win and really believed this race was going to send me to the next level - I thought possibly Olympic trials and beyond. At 11k something was wrong - I wasn't fatigued, in fact I felt awesome - but my left leg became numb and I was barely unable to bring my left foot forward without stumbling. I stopped, stretched, and kept going only to have the same thing happen again and again. I panicked and kept trying to get to the finish line. With a little over a mile left, they all passed me. Everyone I thought I was going to beat came by me one by one. The final 400 was on a track and I could barely get my left leg up on the curb to enter the track stadium. When I finished, I knew in my gut it was over. I have not run competitively since that day. I went to doctors, specialists, physical therapists but nothing worked. Sometimes I could run a mile without my leg going numb, sometimes it would happen right away. I often thought about what could have been if that injury didn't end my competitive running career. But now, being older and more removed from the situation, has given me a new, maybe more mature outlook on everything.
At 25, I was pissed and thought my life was over. How could I go on, running was all I had known and all I had been known for. How could I reinvent myself and derive passion from anything else. But now, instead of thinking of the injury or what i could have been, I am truly thankful for everything running has given me. I am thankful for the people I have met because of running and the places I traveled to because of running. I am thankful to know what it feels like to put 100% of yourself into something - even if you don't know the outcome. Maybe not at the time, but now I am thankful for the hundreds of miles I ran side-by-side with friends in freezing cold rain or snow. I am even thankful for the time I ran an all-out mile for fun in North Carolina and barfed orange Gatorade everywhere when I was done. I have so many memories because of running and I am thankful every day for that, But more than anything, I am thankful for the work ethic running taught me - I know that anything worthwhile is hard work and it takes so many little steps to reach big goals. I am more patient because of running and have a greater respect for big-time goals. It took me thousands of miles to achieve my goals and I remember that every single day while in pursuit of other goals. I think every person who has run can say they are a better person because of it.