This year for me will go down as the year of stitches. Not the year in stitches, mind you—which would imply that I’ve had a very funny year. Though I must admit, I did get my last set of stitches in a rather funny (that is, odd) way.
Last Saturday, my wife and I had just come back from an evening walk and our little pooch, Hoover, was ecstatic—as he always is—that we returned yet again. He was so thrilled, in fact, that he started running around the living room, smacked into my leg … and sort of screeched to a sudden stop. And at the same time, he seemed to pull my leg toward him, as if with some mysterious canine magnet.
At first, I thought that perhaps some of my leg hair had gotten tangled up in his collar. And then I realized that if Hoover was pulling on my hair, it’d probably hurt a lot more than it did. And I quickly came to a rather disturbing conclusion: Somehow, his collar had hooked itself into my shin.
And that is exactly what happened.
The good news is that is sounds way worse than it felt. The pain was minimal, really.
But the bad news was that the wound necessitated seven stitches. Worse, the nurse on call said that the stitches were in an awkward place. Too much activity around the area, and there’d be a threat the things would pop. I’d be unable to run until someone yanked ‘em out … in 10-14 days.
Now, if you’ve read my running blogs, you know that I’m not exactly a runner runner—a guy who can’t wait to lace up his running shoes and dive into the cold, rainy, sleety morning for a jog, singing as cheerfully as Snow White does when she’s polishing furniture.
I don’t like to run. I like to eat, and running allows me to eat and still fit into my work pants. I like to say that I’m a runner, because I’ve never been athletic and it’s nice to pretend every once in a while. The running itself? Yeah, I could do without it.
Or so I thought. But as it turns out, I’ve been running regularly for so long that to not run feels very, very strange.
At first, the forced break was nice—like a little vacation for my calves. There were many, many benefits. I got home earlier, for one thing. Cut down my showering to once a day without offending anyone (that I’m aware of).
But after about four days, I was missing my runs. My body felt like it was growing ever-more gelatinous. My brain was getting a little sluggish, too, not having a nice, steady regimen to latch onto. I felt like I was grumpier and not sleeping as well. I was turning into Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde without the fun of his scintillating night life.
Yesterday was the worst. I was on deadline for a couple of freelance writing projects and, moreover, had a devotional to give the next morning at work (I work for a Christian ministry, and we have a dizzying number of devotionals).
As I was sitting at my desk, wondering whether I could bum some Maalox off of someone, I thought to myself, “man, I could really use a run right now.”
That might’ve been the first time I’ve ever consciously had that specific thought. But in the moment, it was absolutely true. An hour-long run would give me time to plan my devotional. It’d burn off a little of the stress I felt over my deadlines. A run, I realized, would give me a sense of peace that I, at that moment, sorely lacked.
For me, running has always felt so much like my own experience and struggles with faith. Yes, I appreciate the discipline that faith requires of me. I like the benefits that I gather. I love the relationship inherent in faith—the privilege of communing with God (as imperfectly as that communion may look at times). But for me, the Christian walk can be work, and hard work. It’s hard to be ever mindful of God and faith (even when you work at a ministry). It’s trying to push forward sometimes. There are times, frankly, when it’d be cool to take a break.
And let me be completely honest: Sometimes I do. I know I fall short on what I should be doing to keep my faith up to snuff. I can forget. I can grow lazy. I can shove thoughts of God into the back of my mind and find myself far more mindful of other things: Work. Kids. Fantasy football.
But whenever I forget to pray, or contemplate God, or even when I purposefully shove aside my questions about spirituality, I find that it’s not long before I feel empty. I find that I miss it. I need it. I’m not whole without faith. I’m lost without my sense of God.
I just got my stitches out a few hours ago. All is, alas, not well with my little wound. It may be a little infected, which means another 10 days of antibiotics for me. And it’s not closed yet, which means the stitches have been replaced with some super-sticky tape.
But the doctor gave me the thumbs up to start running again. It can only help at this point, he says. Running will spark better circulation, and the more blood the cut gets, the better it’ll heal.
So after work, I ran. It was a short run. It’s amazing how out of shape you get after just a 10-day break. It was hot, sweaty, exhausting work.
And it felt really, really good.