Running on empty

Went for a run today. Sand Canyon Sunday.

I haven’t run for months; three months ago I stopped, gave it up fearing it was for good.

“Why,” you ask, “would you give up something that you love so much, something that keeps you sane, that makes you a better (nicer) mother?”

“Because I am old,” I respond, “and decrepit, and I have managed, over the years, to injure my right foot, my left ankle, my left knee, my lower back, my left forearm, my right shoulder, my neck and my head.

“And, I am fairly incontinent from birthing babies.”

So, yeah, sometimes I think that running might not be the very best thing for me.

“How could you possibly have done all of that?” you ask. “Car accident? Plane crash? Or are you just a spaz?”


Foot: Stepped out the front door at work, missed the step-down, fell out of my clog and landed flat on my ass, in front of five people. Realized two pain-filled self-pitying days later that it was broken. Then, it healed. Until my ex yelled at me on the football field and I turned to storm off and bam! Fell right out of the same pair of clogs.

Lost all dignity in that moment.

Ankle: Let’s just say, Mancos Mardi Gras, great dress, greater boots, four-inch heels, dancing on the stage, landing on my ass.

Left knee: YEARS of carrying a 70-pound pack on my 110-pound frame. Total ego thing – I wanted to be as badass as my fellow mountaineers with their tree-trunk legs. I’m not.

Low back: See above. Add to that my ginormous babies (two of them) and finally one Christmas morning I bent over to hand out presents and ended up on the operating table.

Left forearm: Yet another ego injury (thank goodness my ego itself is still intact). I had to row the biggest boats – always. Cast-iron, extra water, 15 kids, wind, rain, whitecaps…never crossed my mind to ask for help.

Two surgeries on that one. My doctor told me that if I weren’t so skinny I wouldn’t have so many problems.

And perhaps that’s why Americans are overweight.

Right shoulder?

See above and above that, also. Surgery there too.

Neck: Besides going through the windshield in the days before people saw chiropractors, I clocked in hours upon hours upon hours of looking either straight up or straight down while someone was on belay.

And my noggin: skiing, first time in years, second run of the day, whap! Skied the rest of the day though. I didn’t start vomiting until I got home that night so it couldn’t have been too bad, right?

Now you know why I had to slow down in the running department. I started walking. Walking is good, one can walk anywhere, walking on roads doesn’t hurt, it’s easier to converse with a friend, and I walk fast. Apparently too fast for most people’s liking, but I can’t help myself.

This morning I decided that I would have a Sand Canyon Sunday, just at mall-walking pace, not running. It was okay with me – I was just happy to be out there.

Until I skipped down a few rocks and the urge to move took over and one foot in front of the other – I went from stroll to striding out and it felt so damn good.

But I knew that I had to be careful or I would pay for this in the long run; my foot, ankle, knee, back, forearm, shoulder, neck and head would hate me.

So I made up some rules for my first time out:

Foot: no steep downhills

Ankle: no loose Rocks

Knee: no running up big step-ups or down big stepdowns

Back: no pounding on solid slickrock

Forearm: hold the water bottle in the other hand

Shoulder: no Camelback (that’s right – I wore a fanny pack)

Neck: no running uphill (I apparently stick my head out when I do)

Head: big-brimmed hat and no running directly into the sun

And, don’t drink water because it aggravates the need to stop to pee every 50 yards.

But there I was, running on flat sand, sun at my back, happy as a clam, albeit a bit thirsty.

I am headed to Florida this weekend and my ultimate goal is to feel like a champ running on sand, at sea level, with thick oxygenated air. Rock Star.

And of course, just to add to the picture is the fact that when I run, I am mentally writing so I carry a notepad and pen that don’t quite fit into the fanny pack so I end up running with my notebook in the opposite hand from the water bottle. I still have to stop to write but it’s much easier when the pen and paper are at the ready.

After about 3 ½ miles I crested the top of the hill, thrilled that my rules seemed to be working and I wasn’t suffering from any alarming pain when my f-ing toenail fell off.


How’d I forget about that?

Toenail: they say that once you lose one, it will just keep falling back off every time it grows out and you run again. Once, on a long run in the desert, I had to hold it on with a gummi bear. Green. Well, I couldn’t come up with a running rule for my toenail except for, don’t run, and it was too late for that. I brought a lollipop today instead of gummi bears so I had nothing to pad my poor digit.

I figured with all of the other ailments, what did the loss of my nail really matter? It means one less to polish.

I returned to my car, sweaty, exhilarated and yes, parched. I drank all of the water that I carried in my good hand and in my fanny pack. I peed, twice, in the parking lot and headed east.

Oh yeah, I am back. This week, maybe Phil’s World Friday.

Suzanne Strazza is an award-winning writer in Mancos, Colo. See her blog at

From Suzanne Strazza.