I finished my Reservoir loop but I wasn’t ready to head home, so I detoured south and walked toward the Great Lawn.
The loop around the Great Lawn is a half-mile long. I approached it — and then I decided I was going to run around it. I would run one loop. If I couldn’t make it the whole way, that was fine. And if I could, I would stop and celebrate at the end. But regardless of my positioning, I knew I’d never be more than a quarter-mile away from the closest bathroom.
So I stepped into the crowded loop and my walk turned into a shuffle-jog of sorts. Everything immediately felt weird. My ankles hurt right away and I wasn’t sure if they would loosen up or get worse (they did neither — the dull ache just stayed put).
I kept “running” past the Shakespeare in the Park bathrooms, not needing to stop, and nearly seven minutes or so later, I had run half a mile.
I had run half a mile!!!
Look! I wasn’t even dressed appropriately! Those are not my running shoes and those are thick cotton socks! Wild!
I half expected there to be a makeshift finish line for me to run through or a stranger waiting with a medal to drape victoriously around my neck. But instead it was just me, beaming and grinning and then, unsurprisingly, weeping. I cried happy tears as I walked back toward Engineers’ Gate and then back home.
Not sad ones. Not frustrated ones. Tears of sheer joy.
Then, when I got back to my apartment building, guess what was standing outside the entrance?
A three-legged dog.
When I was training for my first marathon, three-legged dogs were my little inspiration. When I was at mile 22 of the marathon, Brian yelled to me, “You’re the three-legged pug!” So this seemed symbolic.
Of course, I woke up Thursday and my ankles were killing me, but I didn’t care. I had gone for a run and I had loved every slow step of it.
Isn’t this the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? YES. It is. Any other answers are wrong.
I couldn’t let the fun stop there. I didn’t want to run again because I know my joints need some more healing before they can take more pavement pounding.
But on Saturday, I returned to another one of my happy places: Matt P.’s spin class at Crunch. And it was every bit as incredible as I remembered.
I couldn’t even sleep Friday night because I was so excited to give this class a shot.
I took the subway downtown — my first trip back on the subway! — and when I arrived at Crunch everything was the same. The same guy was at the front desk, the same “regulars” were on their usual machines and all the groupies were there for Matt’s class.
Gym selfie! I’m BACK! Really I took this to send to my mom to show her where I was. See how I’m jazz hand waving? HI, MOM!
As my life came to a complete halt these past few months, everyone else’s kept going as normal. It’s a humbling realization.
Before class, I attempted to lift some weights.
Not my weights. Just some ones that were on the floor. And that I took a picture of.
Where I used to use 15-pound weights, I dropped down to 8-pounders. And then, when I stretched, I couldn’t touch my toes or get my legs into a straddle stretch. My attempts at butt lifts nearly killed me and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at my attempts. I still can’t do core work, which kills me because it’s my favorite, but I’ll get there.
Another gym selfie! This one is to show the sadness of my stretching. Yes, I used to be a dancer.
When it was time to set up my bike in class, I couldn’t remember what any of my settings were.
Then Matt walked in and he was so excited to see me and I was so excited to see him and things just felt almost right again.
I took the class super easy. Low-to-no resistance, easy easy easy. But I worked up a sweat, I didn’t have to run out to use the bathroom and, when Matt yelled “That’s my girl, Ali. You’re so tough!” I burst into tears on my bike. Again, not surprising. I think I’m too emotionally unstable to exercise. I also cried during the stretch — both because I couldn’t get my leg up onto the bar and because Matt played my Crohn’s power anthem (“Carry On” by Fun., because it just makes sense) — and I cried again saying bye to Matt.
I almost cried trying to walk up the subway stairs getting home, but instead I just stood to the side for a while hoping someone would carry me. Which no one did. New Yorkers are so f-ing rude.
I spent the rest of the day horizontal. It’s amazing how I used to be able to run 20 miles and then function, and on this day I did one spin class and was down for the count.
But that only encouraged me to keep trying.
So on Sunday, I spun again.
I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night, not because I was excited but because my arms were so dang sore from those six bicep curls I did at the gym. Yowza.
Supermoon! It doesn’t look so super in this photo, but it was. It was super awesome.
On Sunday, I made my way to SoulCycle to take class with my beloved Bethany. I was on a back row bike near the door, just in case, but I never needed to make a panicked exit. I took it easy again, but I survived.
And when Bethany screamed “This is a victory for you, Ali!” during the final sprint, I cried.
All I do is cry.
But I’ll gladly cry a million happy tears.
After a shower and some rest, I wrapped up my Sunday with a trip to Central Park. I brought magazines and a towel, set up camp under my favorite tree and alternated between napping, reading, getting pooped on by bugs and listening to the jazz band that was playing right next to my spot.
Those are my legs juxtaposed in front of Central Park. I hope I used the word “juxtaposed” correctly.
At one point, a sunbather next to me looked over and said, “Isn’t this awesome?”
I looked around, listened to the music and thought about the fact that, for the first time since February, I’d had an active weekend.
I flashed her the biggest smile of all-time and just said, “Yeah. It really is.”