“Hindi pantay paa mo…” [Translation: Your legs are not properly aligned]
I was shocked by this statement and it brought memories of being in stuck on a hospital bed at Singapore General Hospital. When I was five years old, I wad admitted because my parents noticed that I was walking with limp and I did not even notice a thing. The human brain is a strange thing. Over the course of time, the brain balances out such things and so in my case, I did not notice that I was walking around limping. Because of this, I was brought to the doctor and then was confined to the hospital, where they put a load on my leg, on both legs actually, with the goal of stretching out both legs in order for my legs to align themselves. Several weeks after, I was back on my feet and was able to walk limp free again. I thought that I was free from limping.
Then my knee accident happened a decade ago. In 2002, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] and because of the tear, I had to undergo the knife as they harvested part of the patella to serve as the new ligament and install titanium implants to keep it in place. Before the operation I was limping. And after the operation, I was limping and adjusting and went through physical therapy. Running helped keep my knee well “greased” like an engine of a car. Alas, I still carry an imperceptible limp. Only those who are most observant notice this since it is very minimal now compared to how I was limping around right after the accident and shortly after the knee operation.
Now, I discovered that the imperceptible limp is partly caused by the fact that the knee operation changed the dynamics of my legs. I have several millimeters that is no aligned and because of this, I have lumbar pain that does not go away. In fact, the pain has been there for as long as I remember and gets worse when I start increasing the training regiment of my running. The past week, because I was getting back to my training runs it became really bad again. And so, I consulted my running coach, Coach Saturnino Salazar who also acts as my physical therapist. I found out from his physical observations of describing the pain that my feet were not aligned. He performed a test to find out if indeed what he suspected was true. True enough, my feet don’t meet at all.
There’s a saying that they feet never truly meet together until the day of your death. I don’t know which is worse, death or to live on with an imperceptible limp. Either way, the small difference changes the way I run. For example, it is now that everything else makes sense. My left leg is shorter than my right leg. And because of this, I experience more trauma on my right leg. To think that it is my right leg that has the titanium implants. It is my right leg that feels more tired and yet it is my left leg that is constantly stressed out since it experiences more pounding than my right leg. Now I am beginning to understand why when I am too tired, I walk and run like a penguin on steroids! This realization made me a little depressed. Why? The first thing that came to my mind is that I need to spend for shoe inserts to make the adjustment. According to Enrico, it is going to be a hit and miss thing for me trying to figure out what would work best for me. I even went out to ask if I needed the said inserts even for my leather shoes or work shoes. Coach Salazar said, technically YES. Otherwise, I would have to spend more money for custom made orthotics. I don’t want to go that far.
I did what I could. I was training properly. I was performing strength and conditioning exercises more diligently now more than ever before. But the pain in my lower left lumbar section lingered. I desire to train and become faster and at the very least, do at least one sub-three hours full marathon in the next five years. So in a sense, I am glad that I finally discovered this aspect of who I am. I could sense the imperceptible limp whenever I am conscious about it. But I did not know that it affected my running. I did not know that it actually ruined my running. Such a small difference and yet it translates to a world of pain. But as the saying goes… better late than never. Now I know what to do about it and I have time to correct and do what needs to be done to make things happen. All it takes is a little knowledge and acceptance that it is not the end.