There’s nothing better than starting the day with a trail run. I’ve many mornings running the Belmont Open Space Trails, which lead to a great overlook of San Francisco Bay. This great view is the perfect way to start the day, and having to run up a few hills to get there, the best thing is that this view is earned.
Trail running is good for more than great early morning views. The changes in elevation and uneven terrain are great for developing running strength, flexibility, and balance that simply cannot be achieved on flat city sidewalks and streets. But taking more challenging trail workouts also exposes you to more injury, and last week on the trails, I tripped, stumbled, and fell and in the process dislocated my left shoulder.
I knew my shoulder was dislocated almost immediately after I hit the ground. I tried to raise my left arm hoping it might pop back into place, but it was too painful to raise above a 45 degree angle. My hand felt numb, so I started flexing my left arm in hopes it would create some circulation and feeling. A light headed feeling descended upon me, and so I bent over, dangling my left arm to my side and bracing myself with my good right arm, so I wouldn’t pass out from shock. Once I gathered myself, there wasn’t much more to do than walk out of the woods and go back home so my wife Linda could take me to the hospital.
Luckily, I knew a shortcut through the trails back home, so it only took about a half hour to get home. And Linda works in a hospital as a speech therapist in head injury rehabilitation, so a dislocated shoulder hardly the worst trauma she deals with on a regular basis. She got the kids dressed, and we all went to the hospital to put my left arm back in place.
My doctor just didn’t have the strength to do it. It actually felt good as he pulled on my arm, which loosened up a lot of tightness in it, but he couldn’t get it back into the socket. Next, he had me lie face down while they attached weights to my left arm dangling off the side of the hospital bed in hopes of fatiguing the arm muscles over time so the arm would pop back into the socket by itself. When that didn’t work, they put me under with the same stuff that killed popstar Michael Jackson, and with my body relaxed and mind totally unaware, finally put my left arm back where it belonged.
Yes, dislocating my shoulder hurt, but really not that bad. And after all, running is about managing discomfort effectively to achieve goals, more succinctly and alliteratively phrased as “no pain, no gain”, so the pain of a dislocated shoulder is simply part of running. They got me in a sling, and supposedly six weeks from now, my arm will feel back to normal, but my left shoulder will be more prone to dislocations due to the damage. I’m not supposed to lift things with my arm. When I’ll be cleared to run, I have no idea.
A dislocated shoulder is painful, but I can handle it. What I can’t handle is sitting around doing nothing, especially since there is not much I can do to make it recover. Not running for a while few weeks is something I actually find a little scary. Before started running at the age of twelve, I was this skinny kid with no self-esteem that everyone seemed to pick on. Running gave me the confidence I needed at this fragile age. I kept at it until there came a point during my first marriage where I nearly stopped running all together, gained 60 pounds, and was generally angry and unhappy. Running got my life back on track, but unfortunately not my first marriage. There’s this irrational fear that if I stop running, I’m going to become that timid skinny 12-year old, that fat unhappily married guy, or some hideous hybrid of the two.
I was planning to enter a couple races in October and November, and was starting to gear up from them in my training. Since that looks like that’s not going to happen, I’ve started spending mornings walking for 20-40 minutes instead of the usual run. It not much, but it’s better than nothing, and one thing I’ve learned in 30 years of running is that maintaining a routine being consistent to it is important. For now that routine is morning walks, and sometime I’ll get in another walk during the day. I’ll build from there.
I will get back up those hills and earn some more great views in the morning. But for now, I walk and wait.