I was thrilled to hear that no fracture showed up on my X-Ray. The physician, however, was quick to point out that stress fractures are often hairline cracks that are not easily detectable and that the only way for me to get better would be to rest. So, I took some time off from running to give my leg a chance to heal. To be honest, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I had been training hard for 18 months straight and I think my mind, as well as by body, needed a break from the constant focus.
Then just a few days ago, like the perfect Christmas present, my leg suddenly stopped hurting and the swelling went away. Cautiously, I eased my way back with short runs, soft surfaces, and a super slow pace. I’d hate to jinx it by saying too much too soon, but I really do feel that the worst is behind me. After 22 years of continuous running this was my first and only injury. I’ve always known that running giveth, but I now know that it can taketh away as well. And never again will I taketh for granted.
In other news, while combing through some back issues of The Economist magazine, I stumbled across an obituary of British runner, Bill Smith. If you’re not familiar with The Economist, you really should acquaint yourself with this wonderful publication. Started in 1843, The Economist is a weekly magazine(though for historical reasons it calls itself a newspaper) that is light in advertising and rich in quality international business and political coverage. One issue could easily provide enough reading material for a transcontinental flight, unlike Time or Newsweek, which feel more and more like inflight magazines. The Economist has been my constant companion since I first started traveling in 1994. After 17 years, I feel like it’s given me a graduate degree in international studies.
I’ve always tended to read magazines back-to-front. This might have to do with the fact that my favorite section is on the back page of The Economist. Each week one individual is featured in a beautifully-crafted obituary. The person is often not well known, but all have lived full, interesting lives in one way or another. Some of my favorite examples include Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen noodles, Eddie Clontz, a master of tabloid journalism, and Irving Stevens, the king of American hobos. This section is so popular among readers of The Economist that a collection of more than 200 of these obituaries were released in book form a few years ago.
Okay, let’s get back to Bill Smith, a man as humble as you’d expect with this most common of names. By trade, Bill was a porter at a department store in Liverpool, but his real passion was running up and over the hills(or fells) of the Lake District in Northern England. Fell running is a uniquely British sport that involves racing across challenging terrain and requires the use of mountain navigational techniques. It’s kind of like a mix of cross country, orienteering, and trail running. Bill didn’t own a car, so he’d start each weekend by hopping on and off various forms for public transportation to get to his beloved fells. He was an accomplished runner, but was better known for writing a 600 page encyclopedia on fell running called “Stud Marks on the Summits.” Bill Smith died at the age of 75 while running alone along the Lancashire moors on a beautiful autumn day. He left this world doing what he loved the most. How many of us will be as lucky.