Sometimes I envy people that have suffered blunt force trauma to the head. They’re so lucky…though they probably don’t know it. Or they knew it, then they forgot it, then they knew it again, then, well, you get the picture.
I used to play basketball with this guy who was all elbows and knees and sweat. If he was on your team, you loved him. He’d dive headfirst into the middle of group of guys fighting for a rebound, arms all akimbo and knees honing in on everyone’s groin. Inevitably, he’d flop out the other side sprawled on the ground either with the ball or holding a wad of someone’s chest hair. But if he was on the other team, you hated the dirty sonofabitch and took every chance to cheap shot him.
Then one day he went racing towards the basket and, maybe because he didn’t run into anyone to slow him down, he came out the other side at full speed and crashed head first into the cement wall a few feet out of bounds. He was groggy and called it a night but otherwise seemed just fine. When he woke the next day and could barely move his left arm and then somehow made it into the office but couldn’t remember how and didn’t seem to know anyone’s name or what time it was, he was taken to the hospital. Severe concussion. Permanent short term memory loss.
I’ve run into him in the office occasionally over the last few years and he always knows he knows me but can’t exactly remember how. Every time I see him, I reintroduce myself and he chuckles and warns ‘don’t be surprised if you have to do this again next time I see you.’ And I do. I’ve “met” him about six times since.
If this was a non-running related site, this would probably be the end of the story…or maybe the set-up for a heartwarming finish in which he elbows me in the chops and says “Hey, Nitmos, it’s you!” immediately before I shove him into a wall (again). Then we hug and exchange blueberry pancake recipes. But this is Feet Meet Street and heart-warming doesn’t belong here. So instead I’ll use his permanent disability as a set-up for what I really want to talk about today: running and short-term memory.
Saturday was long run day. My first twenty miler for this marathon prep session. I’ve been building with some solid 17 and 18 milers in recent weeks so twenty didn’t seem too daunting. But there’s just something about that ‘20’ number isn’t there?
I kept pretty much to the planned pace (7:20-7:25 per mile) coming in at an average 7:19 even after the Angry Run Hating Wind tried to turn my return trip into resistance training. Then the fun started. Post-run, I was doing the happy dance in the shower. Not that happy dance but the happy dance born of tired and thirsty legs and muscles that would love to contract in a violent, involuntary manner. That good old pre-cramping feeling! How I missed you!
I do this to myself. On training runs, I barely drink any water. Two stops for a Gu and a quick guzzle to wash it down in 2 ½ hours and 20 miles? Yeah, probably not enough.
After the shower, I stood in my bedroom in my birthday suit watching my Detroit Tigers beat up on the Indians again completely afraid to sit down. And not because of getting one of those wet butt marks on the comforter. Heck, even lifting a leg to take a step sent the raised foot into a contorted twist as my big toe attempted to connect with the heel. I’d stomp that foot down and press it into the floor working that cramp back out. Some water….some Advil…some Biofreeze….after a half hour of this naked happy dance, life returned to normal. I was able to dress and sit down. My big toe seemed content to remain at the bow of the foot.
At the time, it was complete misery and I wondered why I did this to myself. I had a happy childhood. I once threw a spade shovel like a spear at my oldest brother in an attempt to impale him during an argument but everyone does that right?* What’s with the self abuse?
By that evening, I had forgotten all about the ½ hour of post-run torture and was already mentally planning my week in running ahead. And looking forward to my 22 miler in two weeks.
It’s important to have short-term memory loss as a runner. Forget the pain of the last run. If you are doing intervals, forget the misery of the last interval. Forget the pasty white thigh of the dude in the side split running shorts. Forget everything except why you love being out there in the first place. Move forward…think positive. Really, what’s a half hour of twisting, knotting leg discomfort in the course of a day?
A little short term memory loss can be a good thing. If you can accomplish this without a significant blow to the head, more’s the better. If not, I’ve gotten pretty good at the hammer toss.
Now, if only I could remember to hydrate better on those training long runs…
*I didn’t hit him. The aerodynamics of the curved, unbalanced blade of the shovel threw off the trajectory sending it into a pile of dirt nearby. I stole his Vern Ruhle baseball card instead.