This realization hit me hard this past weekend. I had quite the scare during a routine trail run in a park I've traversed dozens of times. Running down a moderate grade slope, seemingly in the zone, I suddenly clipped a toe on a rock. Before I knew what hit me I was on the ground, face first in the dirt. On impact I banged my patella on an upturned root and began to panic that there may be some serious damage. After a quick systems check I was able to walk it off and then finish the run. (A few days later the knee feels okay, albeit a little tender when palpated.)
I spent the last half hour of that run thinking of how that day could have ended badly. A broken kneecap is no joke, so I've heard, and one of the most painful fractures one can sustain. The solution to a patella fracture would likely have been surgery, followed by months of rehab and, of course, a slow return to running regularly. All that work of maintaining base fitness gone, simply because I lost focus for a split second. As I ran slowly along, I took a mental timeout to recognize and appreciate my good health and how lucky I am to be able to go out and run on any given day, around Ithaca's waterfalls and gorges no less.
There is of course a similar risk with athletes of all levels and abilities. Take Dave Mackey, for example. Earlier this year, the former Ultrarunning Magazine Ultrarunner of the Year went out on an easy trail run near his home. He took one misstep that led to a horrific fall, resulting in a mangled leg. The accident may have ended his athletic career and nearly cost him his life.
The caveat is of course not limited to just sports. It's easy to point out the risks and consequences associated with sports injuries, but the recent attacks in Beirut and Paris are proof that no one is immune to tragedy and loss. The victims of the attacks had their lives forever changed, or in some cases ended, in the blink of an eye. For these victims, their losses are obviously much greater than a sports injury, but the principle is the same. Our only nationally recognized day of giving thanks upon us. However, it remains important to appreciate all that we have, not just annually on a Thursday in late November, but daily throughout the entire year.
So when you're out there on your next run - be it trails, treadmill, or Turkey Trot - take a few moments to appreciate your ability to breathe the fresh air while moving forward unimpeded. We all have some time alone with our thoughts during a run. Even when running with friends, a few seconds of solitude is always possible. If you have no plans to step outside for a run, spend a moment in gratitude during your morning commute, before drifting off to sleep at night, or whenever else suits you best. Keep a mental inventory of everything you have, like your loved ones, your health, and your happiness, and remember how fortunate we are to have these things in our lives.
Happy Turkey Trot Day!