I think of May 20th as ‘Broken Leg Day’, because on May 20, 2015, my dogs broke my leg. You would think that having a broken leg would be considered bad and at the time, I definitely thought that. But the story since then has been an object lesson in the importance of the rest of the story.
I’m not saying having a broken leg was fun, or pleasant, or that it wasn’t painful. At the time it was awful. There were a lot of moments where, if you stopped the story right then, that broken leg was really, really, really bad.
And yet, here I am, seven years later. The need to recover from that broken leg pushed me to run my first ultramarathon. I’m more fit than I’ve been at any other time in my life. I’m tougher, physically and mentally. I’ve got friends who I never would have met if not for ultrarunning.
It also brought me to a solid understanding that in life in general, there are no guarantees. We may not be here tomorrow. Tomorrow’s run is not guaranteed. We may be unable to run, or even walk, when tomorrow comes. Someday, we’ll go for a run, and it will be our last run ever. These are ugly and unpleasant facts, but they are inescapable.
There’s only one sensible response to these facts, and it’s the Big Lesson of Ultrarunning: gratitude.
Gratitude for good friends who say things like “We’re going to run across the Grand Canyon. You come, too.” Gratitude for long runs filled with long stretches of flow. Gratitude for long runs that featured long periods in what I think of as the Tunnel of Torment. Gratitude for hill repeat workouts where I pushed so hard I threw up at the top of the hill. Gratitude for every stride, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult, because there might not be any more after this.
I’m grateful that I had an experience that led me to an understanding that we don’t get to decide what happens, but we do get to choose the story we tell ourselves about it. We get to choose between “After that broken leg, Paul sort of gave up and entered the death spiral” and “Paul went from a broken leg to running a 100 mile ultramarathon.”
Happy Broken Leg Day.