Yesterday I had a physiotherapy appointment for my poorly knee. The physiotherapist was looking at my MRI scan on her computer when I asked the question "So when will I be able to run again?"
Her answer was one word. "Never.". And I instantly dissolved into tears, as the finality of that judgement sank into my heart. Apparently the meniscus is already damaged, and the way I walk ("very poor mechanics") makes matters worse. If I persist in running, it will compromise my current ability to walk pain-free, and eventually I will need a knee replacement, probably sooner rather than later.
It was so hard to hear this. Running has been a huge part of my life for the last sixteen years, ever since I decided that I wanted to get fit before my fortieth birthday. Well, now I am 55, and my running days are over. In the last few years, I haven't run many races (my peak year being 2004, when I completed the London Marathon), but I have been able to go out three times a week for two or three miles, and to come back feeling on top of the world.
And now I can't do it again. Ever. The pain is hard to bear.
A part of me is trying to rationalise the pain away - come on, it could be worse, at least you can still walk or cycle. You haven't been diagnosed with cancer or heart disease or Crohn's or MND or any one of a number of hideous, life-changing conditioins. Your life is not threatened. Get a grip.
I know that over the next few weeks, I will come to terms with this change in my life. I will keep searching until I find an alternative form of exercise that makes me feel good about myself. But I doubt that any will match up to the simple joys of putting one foot in front of another - of running.
Just now, the words, "Once I was a runner" are the saddest in the world. I can feel the grief settling into my bones. And so I am lamenting a lost way of life, a lost source of happiness. I am finding it difficult to discern where God is in all this. He/She seems to be altogether absent.
Except perhaps in the sure knowledge that this too shall pass. Which I will cling onto, in the days ahead.