Yes, I will admit this right up front: I’m dreaming again. My new titanium knees have resurrected my hope of distance and adventure. Since July, I think of my life in two phases … BNK (before new knees) and ANK (after new knees). Not the handiest set of acronyms, I’ll admit, but the delineation is sure to loom large in my life.
Since I’m not supposed to run, at least not yet, I’ve been walking a lot. And I’ve been adding my walking mileage to my run log, the log I’ve kept since 1978. I write down the miles I walked in the same way I used to write down the miles I ran.
I don’t log all of my walking miles – as in, walking around the house or walking down the halls of my office, etc. – but I include miles I walk specifically for walking’s sake. It’s more about intention than frequency or pace.
In October, I walked 30 miles, at about 3 miles a pop, the most I’ve covered in one month since March 2013. In fact, of the 76 miles I’ve logged so far in 2015, 56 have happened in September and October.
This is representative of my new ANK life. I can cover ground again without little or no pain for the first time in about ten years. And even though I’m walking instead of running, my pace isn’t that much slower than my hobbling runs from just a few months ago
Why does this matter? Because it represents my return to dreaming - of long distances, marathons, epic hikes in the mountains, backpacking with my grandchildren, and covering significant ground with my feet. It represents the return of hope to my daily life.
I’ll log another 19 miles in the next couple of weeks, and when I do, it will put me over 37,000 lifetime running/walking miles. I doubt I’ll spend much time celebrating since it’s the sort of landmark that has little appeal to anyone other than the logger. Maybe I’ll have a milkshake.
Here’s the thing. I first started running in May 1978 to win the heart of a girl. I’d just completed my first senior year at the University of Oklahoma when I came home to Hobbs, New Mexico to work as a summer intern for Getty Oil Company. Within my first week home, I realized my well-thought plans for the summer were in trouble: the girl I’d dated the previous summer, who attended New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, and whom I’d hoped to date again, had been seeing a track-and-field jock during the school year. He was a javelin thrower, of all things. How could I compete for her attention against a guy like that? I needed something besides good grades in college to win her back.
Once I understood my dilemma, I did something uncharacteristic for me - something that shaped the rest of my life. I decided to go for a run. If I had to compete with a jock for the affections of this girl it had to be something physical, and running seemed to be the easiest thing to take up. It was the first voluntary run of my life. In fact, other than an occasional touch football game or church softball game, it was my first voluntary attempt at any sport besides ping pong.
Never did I imagine that running would become instrumental in how I lived my life, how I planned my time, where I traveled for fun and leisure, how I met my friends, and how I ended up serving in local government. The daily dose of being alone on my feet became my best spiritual meditations. I didn’t intend for running to become such an integral part of my life. All I wanted to do on that fateful day in late May 1978, when I put on my shoes and stumbled through three miles, was to win back my girl.
And now, 37 years later, ANK, I’ve already planned a Guadalupe Peak hike in November and a 5K at Thanksgiving. Who knows where hope will take me next.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32