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Surgery. Recovery. Gratitude.

By Henry Howard

Five years ago this week I was recovering from emergency abdominal surgery instead of running my first 100K at the Ultra Race of Champions.

As I wrote at the time, I was walking gingerly around the fifth floor of a hospital, pushing my IV cart and looking forward to my first full meal that did not consist of ice chips. I should have been running through the mountains in Virginia, pushing my boundaries and looking forward to the next aid station fare.

While I prefer to look ahead instead of back, it is important to put our journeys into perspective. At the time, I needed to detach wires from the wall, carefully shimmy out of my hospital bed or chair, grab my IV cart and shuffle to get anywhere. Could I really continue to pursue my running journey?

Those first runs walk-runs back were slow and steady. I was able to rebound, getting stronger and regaining my fitness. While I was not able to complete my goal race due to the surgery, I did get back into racing. I finished a half marathon on trails, a 20-mile race and the Chicago Marathon in the months after being laid up.

I’ve had my share of special moments and setbacks since that time. But it’s not about one race, a PR or some other metric-based achievement.

It’s about the growth, which is in no way linear.

It’s about finding peace, joy and gratitude on the run.

It’s about pushing my limits to see what’s possible.

It’s about working smart, not necessarily hard, today.

It’s about all of these things. But most of all it is because one day I will not be able to run and experience all these benefits.

Five years ago was not that day, but it could have been. Today was not that day.

Will tomorrow be that day? Who knows? That’s why we focus on today, with gratitude for the opportunity to run, explore our limits and spread joy.


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