By: Mark Bomba
I would love to be writing about more positive things like how good my training is going or how I feel great in trying to defend my Canadian Masters championship in cross country from last year, but alas, my current situation is quite the opposite. I suffered a serious laceration of two-thirds of my Achilles this past summer and instead am simply quite happy to be able to walk without pain, which is a goal I have not yet achieved 100% or have begun running, which seems even longer away.
If I have realized anything in the sport of distance running it is that it isn’t always the fastest who win, but often the ones who persevere over and over and over again. Or at least that’s what I am telling myself as I move forward in my recovery process. Distance running teaches you many things, but it’s the frustration of injuries that can often allow one to find out things they never knew about themselves.
Early in my running career I was able to have both successes and failures that taught me the values and strengths of perseverance and hope. I do not think I ever realized how the experiences of frustration and failure would help to achieve much greater successes later in my running career. When I was injured or had a bad race in my twenties it often seemed like the world was falling down around me, but the thought of quitting never truly entered my thoughts. That’s not to say I haven’t quit this sport while out on a run or simply stopped when the emotion of the moment seemed simply overwhelming, but there was always another race or another season. No matter how bad things became the good would override the bad. All I ever needed was one decent performance that would carry me through one more season. A glimmer of hope was all that was needed to carry on forward.
This resilient nature of what makes a distance runner has now become a natural part of my personality. While my wife showed extreme concern with my injury after my operation I had already moved on that this was simply another barrier on my running career. Rather than go through the ‘seven stages of grief’ of anger shock or depression, I went straight to the last stage of ‘acceptance and hope’. I always know that running has provided me with many experiences that as I like to say ‘one must earn and cannot buy’, but I never completely understood how it has truly become a harbinger of my ability to deal with negativity.
There will always be frustration and anger at some level, but in the end these are fleeting thoughts that I already know the answer to deep down in my psyche. So as I move on to dealing with my rehabilitation and delve deeper into coaching and teaching young runners what great things they can learn if they can, for even a short period time, commit to trying to test their limits of both physical and mental capabilities, there is no question of whether I’ll run again. Instead the answer is not if, but when. Whether I like it or not running is no longer something I do, but rather it has become part of who I am as a person.