It’s a Fracture

The one thing I’ve been since I started to document my journey toward my first marathon is honest. I’ve opened up about my recovery as an alcoholic, my own self-doubt and even something as embarrassing as trying to find a bathroom a quickly as possible during a long run. Thankfully, that post didn’t end in a messy tragedy.

Which brings me to today. I debated whether I should write this post or not but my wife said, “Michael, be honest. That’s all you’ve ever done in your blog. This is your journey. All of it. The good and the bad. Just let it come from your heart.”

So here it goes. 

On Thursday morning I had an MRI on my left ankle. I had been experiencing pain since just before the New Year and already had an X-Ray which didn’t reveal anything abnormal. Yet, I knew something just wasn’t right. The pain I had was more than soreness. So, my doctor wanted to take a closer look with an MRI.

At 6:30 AM, I sat in an empty Radiology department at CMC Matthews waiting for what came next. The repetitive hammering sounds of an MRI. Once on the table, the technician put the headphones on me, changed the station to Sirius XM 28 and I closed my eyes to Coldplay’s “Up and Up.” Not a bad song considering the circumstances. 

Less than an hour later, I was on my way back home. By 10:30 am, I received an email that my test results were ready for my review. I clicked on the link and logged on to check out the outcome of the MRI.

And there it was. The one word I did not want to see.


Das Boot

Every other word on the screen just kind of went blurry. Fracture stood alone staring at me.  

My heart sank. My shoulders slumped.

I felt beaten.

Not long after I got the news, I picked up my stepson, Alex, from his exams. I could hear his empathy for what I was going through but it wasn’t until he said these words that I began to struggle. “What are you going to do now? I know how much this meant to you. You had your heart set on this marathon. Pup, I feel so bad for you.”

As those words lingered, I looked out the car window to see a woman running down the sidewalk. I wanted to cry. 

But anger and my stubbornness wouldn’t accept the results. At least not yet. I had already worked too hard for this!

Earlier that week I registered for the Thursday night HIT cycling class and decided I was going to not only show-up but give the workout everything I had in me. Luckily the bike puts less pressure on the ankle than running so my pain was minimal. 55 minutes later, I felt like had proven something to myself. “Take that bad news gods. I decide when I am beaten. Not you.”

Famished and exhausted, my wife and I decided to hit up a burger joint for dinner. 

That’s when I learned, the bad news gods don’t like to be mocked. (Yes, I know there no such thing as bad news gods. Only bad news bears.)

To remove any doubt, their retribution came in the form of a violent case of food poisoning – or a 48 hour stomach flu – whatever it was, it added salt to the wound.

Now, I was physically AND emotionally beaten. 

It’s hard to adequately explain exactly how much this marathon means to me but I will do my level best to try…

At my core, I am a purpose-driven person. When I turn my attention toward something, I am all-in. I don’t test the waters. If I believe in what I am doing then there’s no turning back. And that’s how it started with training for a marathon. I had a purpose and a deeply personal reason for doing it. My own sobriety.

I needed to prove to myself that I was a changed man. That the behaviors of my past were just that – of the past. That I could rightly prove to myself that I had what it takes on the inside to train for and finish a marathon. To be honest, I wanted to prove to everyone else I could do it. I am just a flawed as the next person, and readily admit I really did want to prove to my family, friends and those who didn’t believe I could do it – that I absolutely could. 

As you can see, I did have a chip on my shoulder.

But the more I trained. The more I ran. The freer I felt. The more confident I became with each run. Every run was new. Every distance set a new record. Even the bad runs had silver linings because I didn’t quit. I hung in there and finished and, for me, that was saying something. I was adding up daily “wins.”

When I ran, I was present in the moment. I was running to hit certain goals and I focused on that during the workouts. My body never felt better. I started to sleep through the night, my moods were better and overall, the quality of my life had dramatically improved.

Behind all of the good runs, the bad runs, the cold rainy runs and the awesome runs with my wife, lurked the insecurities of wanting to prove to myself that I could really do this. The chip was still there. I won’t rehash what I’ve written in the past but being an alcoholic left a wreck where my life had once been. Running and my recovery program began to clean away that wreckage and rebuild a life worth living.

It’s hard to explain but the actual day-to-day training for the marathon is what was saving me. I had a daily purpose. I had a goal to reach and a coach to please. The work I was doing each day was the foundation for completing a marathon. That meant something to me. 

During this time, I was sharing my daily training efforts on Facebook and Twitter. Admittedly, part of me wanted the attaboys but the main reason was to share my journey with others in hope of inspiring someone to help themselves. You see, just after I started my training I decided to raise money for the Charlotte Rescue Mission. My reasoning was simple. If I am going to train to run 26.2 miles then why can’t I do it in honor of an organization that helps other – others that are- or have been- as hopeless as I once was. 

This quote was the catalyst for that thought process.

“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” – Bill Wilson

That quote ran through my head as fast as the last mile I ran several days before learning the news of my fracture.

Beaten. Broken. What do I do now?

Don't Quit

I made a promise to myself and others that I was committed to training for and completing a marathon. That commitment and the generosity of so many friends helped me raise over $1,000 for the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Just $913 short of my goal of $2,000.

I don’t like to let anyone down. Friends who believe in me but especially people who are struggling with addiction.  

Many folks donated to the Mission for different reasons. Some in honor of loved ones who’ve battled addiction, others because they believed in what I was trying to accomplish and some had a connection to the charity. Whatever the reasons, their intentions were genuine.

That’s why, four days after my MRI results were released and hours after I met with an Orthopedist, I have decided to take a day or two to think about what’s next. I will be in a boot for six weeks. Which means no running whatsoever. But it doesn’t mean I cannot continue to train in other ways.  

If I decide to continue with the marathon, I am going to do everything within my power to prepare for and complete the Bataan Memorial Death March on March 19th. I won’t be able to run to train but I will use every method available to me to reach that goal. Whether it’s hours of aqua-jogging or intervals on the bike trainer. By whatever means necessary. That includes taking the advice of my wife, my coach and some past participants of the Bataan.

Is there risk of further injuring my ankle? Sure but the risk is relatively low if I stay in the boot for six weeks. As the doctor said, “If you go ahead and do Bataan, you just might see me afterward for another six weeks in that boot.”

I am not sure where this journey will take me. It may lead to New Mexico in 2017 or perhaps I won’t make it there until 2018. As with sobriety, there’s no final race to be won or last finish line to cross. There are only mile markers posted 24 hours at a time. The same can be said about my journey as an athlete. There are setbacks and there are celebrations. I’ve learned that both happen on the same road and begin with taking that first step.

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr.