A sudden, searing pain exploded in my right ankle and I fell to my hands and knees in the deep, uncut grass. The black and white painted concrete curb was inches from my face and I could smell the wet grass and soil.
I had stepped in a depression hidden in the grass and had violently twisted my ankle, 30 minutes into an hour-long run. Despite the intense pain, I stayed totally silent, hoping my running partner would see me.
All I wanted to do was lie down in the wet grass and let the pain drain from my ankle.
“Hey, are you ok?” he yelled. “I’m fine, it just really hurts. Hold on. There’s nothing you can do,” I replied, still in agony.
After a few minutes the pain started to go away and I got to my feet. I limped along the sidewalk and started feeling better.
I managed to trot the 5k home in minimal pain. In the back of my mind all I could think about was whether or not I would be able to race in the upcoming 2022 World Championships in St. George.
My flight was to leave only two weeks from then. Would this be enough time to recover?
This had happened to me before, twice in fact. Once, it was while I was training for my first marathon, 10 years ago. The pain was similar, and I thought it was the end of the world.
Back then, I thought to myself how catastrophic it was, as I had trained something like 12 or 16 weeks at that point and I thought all that was for naught.
I didn’t think I’d ever have such a long training streak again, and now it was all wasted.
How wrong I was.
I remember telling the doctor that I needed to see a sports psychologist, not a physician, and I was right.
I was unable to mentally process what had happened and I didn’t realize I’d have other chances ahead of me.
But a decade older and a bit wiser, I don’t feel that this recent ankle-twisting means the end of anything for me.
It’s just another bump in the road, and we all have them.
Why? Because I’m playing the infinite game. This isn’t some one-and-done type of thing.
I will have dozens more races in my lifetime and this upcoming race is merely one.
The infinite game looks at the long-term, not next month or even next year. It’s not based on scarcity like the finite game is. It’s based on playing (training and racing) for the sake of it, not to win.
It’s based on a philosophy of lifelong betterment and learning. How could it ever end?
You might as well take a long-term view; after all, David Goggins said something to the effect of, “The only catch with constant training is that once you start you can never stop.”
I remember a few years ago a guy I mountain biked with said that he was going to “retire” from the sport now that he had turned 40. To him, his time was up.
Sell the bike.
That’s not what I call playing the infinite game or even the finite game. I don’t plan on “retiring” until I’m dead.
So, for now, while a sprained and swollen ankle sucks, it’s merely a bump in this road that never ends.