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The Blessing of an Injury

By Kari Johnson 03/16/2021, 8:30am PDT

Kari finds out that lessons learned from running apply to life at large. Even injuries can teach you valuable life lessons.

It was a warm day in May, 2020, the one you first encounter after cold winter runs, where you realize summer is coming and you’re not quite prepared.  The forecast said high of 70, but by 9 am, out on mile 7 of a planned 10 mile run that was turning into 14, it felt downright hot.  The trail to Beale’s Point was a little of a roller, pretty in spring green, not yet dusty, with a dampness underfoot.  This kind of weekend running with small groups was the holdout activity of the early pandemic.  I was focused on just getting miles in, since there was yet hope of a cross country season. Sadly, cross fit, yoga and my massage guy closed down in March.  I had been running for two months without all those supportive activities. Big mistake. 

On this lovely day, my squawking hamstring tried to keep up with my intentions, but it failed me.  I tripped over a large root with my left foot, and when I reacted by pulling my right leg up and out to stop my tumble, the right hamstring got pushed past its limit.  I finished the run gingerly, and iced excessively, but this one turned out to be much more extensive than my uninformed optimism could grasp.

In times of trouble, I find I retreat to safe practices.  I think the injury scared me, and my fear put me in mind only of the safest bet. I returned to my massage guy, and extra stretching, and foam rolling.  And when I didn’t recover, I just did more.  And it still didn’t get better.  Slower running, then even slower running.  No runners high for months.  Still hoping, contrary to the evidence, that massage, more stretching and foam rolling, and super slow running would bring about change.

Maybe slowing down enough, and almost giving up, quieted my hamster-wheel brain enough to hear that little voice in the back of my mind - the one that knocks quietly but persistently, and knows the truth every time.  That voice said: Kari, you are relearning a lesson you already learned- stop waiting and hoping — take a chance on something new. 

Magical intervention of the Universe?  Nope.  A call to a different physical therapist, another change in my form, way less stretching, and targeted glute strengthening exercises.   The solution was out there all along, I just needed to be fearless enough to take the first step, and then committed enough to myself to follow through.  But even more than running faster, farther, and with less pain, the recovery of my body has mirrored the rest of my life.   That little voice has been quietly knocking about a few other things, too. At the same time I started to really recover, I put a stop to another unhealthy circumstance.  And looking back, my running got out of balance at the same time that part of my life did.  I was working too much, struggling to keep up in a situation destined for failure.  My reliable tools have always been to hunker down, keep going, and work harder.  But I now see the circumstances for success have to be in place; that unenlightened persistence will never bring about the right kind of change. 

What I can see now, which is the blessing of this injury, is that my body tells me all I need to know, as long I can just tune in and listen. Apparently, simple and accurate action is all I need to permit my natural healing to occur.  Since this is true of my body, and is happening now, it must be true of the rest of my life.  The trick is to find those simple solutions.  The first step is to give up the stuff that doesn’t work, take a pause, and try a different approach.  Thank you, injury!

Kari Johnson joined the Buffalo Chips in 2019 after decades of running by herself and somehow managing to stay semi-motivated.  A lawyer by training and a native of Sacramento, she is currently trying to learn the guitar when not doing legal work for the State of California. 

“Kari Komments” appears monthly on this page.