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I now understand what ‘Achilles Heel’ means

March 9, 2014

An important part of life is having a sense of purpose. Purpose provides a sense of accomplishment and a sense of progress. Without this basic benchmark of self-evaluation life is a dreary production of waking up, going to work, and going back to bed. Repeat.

Purpose can manifest in the form of chasing a cross-country dream, starting a Kickstarter page for a new invention, volunteering for a greater cause or writing the great American novel. For many, purpose is raising a family–creating something larger, more intricate and deeply spiritual than themselves.

We all need something to live for. We all need something to strive for to be better human beings; to improve; to learn from our mistakes and march forward towards a brighter horizon.

For a long time I invested my purpose in the form of running a design studio (no pun intended). When I took up full-time employment my sense of purpose was defined by my band.

When I was near the age of 40 my band resolved itself and shortly thereafter I took up running. I don’t mean I took up running as if I had never gone out on a casual run before. I took it up. I started racing 5k’s. And then a 5-miler. And then a 10k. I bought a GPS running watch and started tracking my mileage, pace and time. I joined a running club. I spent $120 on running shoes x4. I had my form analyzed. I won my first trophy. I finished 25th out of 1600 runners in a trail race. I ran a half-marathon. I signed up for a triathlon. I ran another half-marathon. I planned a vacation in France around my first full marathon…

It sounds absurd, but my sense of purpose has become my feet hitting the pavement in a successive cadence so emphatic I’ve long since ditched the headphones so as to count my steps, “1-2, 1-2, 1-2”.

I know I have a bad habit of deeply (and publicly) romanticizing my personal existential angst… but my sense of purpose has been eviscerated by a new complication.

You can probably expect a lot more posts from me. I have mostly all but neglected this stupid blog… as I’ve mentioned, I have been training for the Paris Marathon this April. After switching up my running form to a mid-strike this early winter I developed a brand new shiny running injury. Meniscus? Old hat. Hamstrings? Nah. IT? Ha! I laugh at thee!

Achilles tendonosis tendonitis.


It started with a sensitivity in my right ankle right above my heel and right below my calf muscle. My physical therapist gave me exercises and stretches… nothing serious, there was no swelling or nodules.

The initial discomfort happened directly after some hill workouts and long runs in a minimal running shoe (in “feels like -7°F”). By the way, fuck this Boston winter.

I ran the Hyannis Half Marthon a few weeks ago and did well–1:41 net, 1:43 gun.

The next morning the achilles was back in discomfort–but still, nothing serious. I took off a week or so. And. Then. This. Happened.

I went out for run this weekend and was barely able to make it through six miles. It was the saddest… saddest day of my life. No one died but, still, it was fucking frowny face sad. Finally, a warm day in Boston–a balmy 48°F and there I was barely ambulatory. I saw more runners than non-runners. I gimped down Mass Ave clutching my T card in one hand and a sad Starbucks grande latte in the other.

So, now what?

Welp. It doesn’t look like I can run a marathon much less than the 5K I signed up for this coming weekend. (I even got my my own personal number assigned! #72!)

I feel I’ve lost my sense of purpose.

Yeah, I can swim. I can continue to work on my inability to grasp the simple concept of breathing with the pull vs. after the pull which I still can’t get.

I told my swim coach about my dogs, Cosmo and Sophie, e.g. Cosmo is a swift polar bear gently gliding through the water vs. Sophie that possesses all of the terror and panic expressed in my splash-splash of inefficiencies. “You are swimming like Sophie… You HAVE to relax.”

The problem is I can’t relax.

Anecdote: I was given “twilight anesthesia” for an outpatient procedure. I was fully, FULLY, awake. It’s probable a fucking elephant tranquilizer couldn’t take me out. If I have one superpower it’s a resistance to downers. No one will ever be able to roofie me. This is my superpower… which come to think of it seems like such a huge waste of a superpower.

I know what you are thinking… “fuck you, you are going to Paris.” Well, true. But I will also witness the event that predicated my raison d’être. 

This sounds like ass-hattery, and I know I’m not an Olympic athlete, but when I told a contemporary I was running the Paris Marathon they were stunned. “Wait… you are an actual runner? You run?,” I think was their reply.

I’m a fit guy. Especially for 41. I’m in better shape then I’ve ever been in my entire life. My resting heart rate is 60. I have little to no body fat. It’s ridiculous. But it’s hard not to process off-handed tertiary commentary into some weird self-imposed reason to succeed. And now I feel, even more, a gross sense of failure.

It’s an inconvenient combination of feeling there’s something to prove vs. the inability to back up my sense of purpose.

I hate it.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Jess March 10, 2014 at 12:53 am

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re putting a fork in it. Ask Marc, I couldn’t run 3 miles at the end of March last year…I essentially took 3 weeks off, only swimming and running 5-10 miles 3 times/week then ran the marathon. It hurt, and it sure as hell wasn’t pretty but miles 1-23 felt pretty good. Everyone’s different so don’t listen to me or do what I did. I’m just relating. I’m glad you still get to go to Paris though! Have you tried Graston? It was a life-saver for me.

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