I had an appointment with BMI’s fitness director, the inestimably perky Kelly, on Tuesday morning at 7am. Seriously, if you’re going to meet someone that early, Kelly is truly the lady to meet. She’s 12 kinds of awesome. Anyway, it was pretty darned good timing because Monday night, 29 seconds into my run, there was a pop and I was hobbled by a sharp stabbing pain in my left calf.

I kind of wanted to vomit, that’s how much it hurt. Yes, I could stand on it, but any kind of motion where I had to roll off my left foot (thus going up on my toes and flexing the calf) kind of made me want to die. Luckily, I was only 29 seconds of running and a 4 minute warmup walk away from the car (it still took about 12 minutes to get there), and it’s not my driving leg. My parents live in that neighbourhood so I trundled over there to see my dad, who knows something about calf pain as he had a full achilles rupture in 2003. He reassured me that my achilles was still attached, suggested I stop off at the hospital on the way home, and my mum gave me a diet dr pepper, because that actually may be able to cure all.

Since I had nothing to read with me and Ottawa hospitals have horrendous wait times, I decided to go home, shower, ice my leg, take some anti-inflammatories and hope it all went away. You know what? It totally didn’t go away. Totally. Luckily I went to see Kelly the next morning and Dr F was in the office early and he seemed pretty unconcerned. I like it when a doctor is unconcerned.

Perky Kelly and her 12 kinds of awesome let me sit on a fitball while she demo’d some changes to my strength program. When I’d visited Tim the athletic therapist earlier in the year he’d noted that my legs are visibly different in strength (true – I only ever check out my flexed stronger leg, because it’s so much more impressive). So, I asked Kelly how to make the other leg stronger, too.

The weak leg is now in charge, and Imma gonna be doing a lot of one legged exercises for a while. Lots of stuff on the ball. Lots of instability. It’s gonna be super. You know me, I like some toys in the gym to keep it interesting. Anything to avoid a straight up boring circuit, you know? And since my gym is a little random, I’m expecting to have to hunt down the things I need for each set, which will make it The Gym: Scavenger Hunt. And let’s face it, I love scavenger hunts.

Anyway, I spent a few hours at the waterpark yesterday with my bestie, who was excited to have a social activity that didn’t see him in charge of a small child’s safety or entertainment. We basically hung out in the wave pool and the lazy river, since the mere idea of walking up many (many) flights of stairs made my leg cramp up like you wouldn’t believe. Just walking in anything more than a zombie shuffle was brutal.

However, by the time we left yesterday, the weightlessness of sitting in the shallow end of the waves for an hour seemed to have worked some voodoo magic. Today I can walk an indoor stride with some pain, but no limp (limping is death). Anything approximating my normal outdoor stride feels like someone is sawing away with a rusty butter knife at the inside back of my calf. Seriously – it’s about the most revolting thing I’ve felt since my foot surgery. The exact moment when I flex my foot to roll over the toes is when I think I’m going to hurl. Oh god. It is just. plain. awful. If it still hurts next week, by the way, I’m totally getting it ultrasounded. Until then, I’m icing, using the rolling pin, and stretching, albeit very gently.

It’s a major bummer because you know I really want to be a runner. I’ve tried to be a runner at least 5 times now. I want to be one of those women who are out there, pounding the pavement, chatting with friends, and getting their workout done fast. I was telling Perky Kelly this, and her words of wisdom to me were priceless. “I think you could be an outstanding walker, Kerry.” Doh. It’s a good thing she’s so nice.

My family is actually comprised primarily of badass walkers. My mum walks from 6-10km each day. My dad goes on two walks every day. My grandmother (God rest her soul) would walk so fast that she’d be a block ahead of me before I noticed it (did I mention she was really short? Oh the shame.) My brother refused to take the bus in this city, and would walk what I consider to be insane distances to avoid it until he bought a car when he was 28 years old. Yeah, I can walk. It’s boring, it’s much slower in the calorie burn, but I can walk. I can walk to my best friends’ house, which is about 2.5km from here (so much more convenient when they lived a block away) and play with their kids. I could walk to work (6.5km) or home (much less likely, because I’m frankly tired and cranky and hungry as hell when I leave the office). I could walk down to the transitway instead of taking my local bus. I could walk all over the place.

But I really wanted to be a runner.

I think it’s probably time to put that dream aside. I’m 36 years old. Yes, I know a lot of women who run. Yes, I know a lot of women who love it. But you know what I love? I love sports. I love talking to people. I love the feeling I have after yoga (but almost nothing about yoga itself, funnily enough). I need to reorient that dream so that I don’t denigrate my physical fitness because I can’t run. I’m still fit. I’m still strong. I’m still healthy. I’m just not a runner.

I totally need a tshirt that says that. NOT A RUNNER – I could have posters and bumper stickers and visors and stuff made up with that slogan and, um, no one would buy them.

You know, that might be my main problem with this idea. Society has told me for my entire adult life that running is what the cool kids do. Run for the Cure. Ottawa Race Weekend. Army Run (dog tag medals – so cool!). Physical fitness is linked to your running ability. Why? Is it because you only need shoes to do it, so it’s an easy measure of fitness? Screw that. I can deadlift 140 pounds. I can squat 160 pounds. I can play 80 minutes of squash. I can do a triathlon (without running, no less). I can swim 500 m. I can hike the Grand Freaking Canyon. I can canoe for five hours. I can make a plan to hike a 600 km trail in 30 days and have no doubt at all in my mind that I’m going to finish.

I get that it’s “easy” to market a run. I get that it’s “easy” to get a sense of community that way. But I want there to be other ways for me to show off my cool, fit self. Rec running is about your personal best. Why isn’t there a personal best competition in other stuff?

Yeah, okay, I’m not a runner. What I am is a great hiker. A fine canoeist. A decent swimmer. A fun squash partner. I’m actually an athlete. And from this day forward, I refuse to let myself and my fitness level be defined by one activity that I seem to be ill suited for. Athletes come in all shapes and sizes, sports and activities. I will define “athlete” for myself and I will respect that definition. I am an athlete, and I should be proud.