Bear with me as I spew my thoughts upon you, as I’m thinking them almost faster than I can type. Despite the fact that I’ve been a lifelong football fan and I knew Peyton Manning had surgery on his neck a few years ago, I didn’t know what kind until today. He had a spinal fusion in his cervical spine. You may recall that I’m on tap to get a spinal fusion in my lumbar (lower) spine sometime in the next few years. I got to thinking about how amazing it is that Peyton had a fusion and went back to not only playing professional football, but if you know anything about the man, he is absolutely killing it.

“All that pain,” I thought. “All that rehab. Starting from scratch. Feeling like it would never be the same again, but he came back better than ever. That’s crazy. That is so inspirational.”

And then I realized something. I did that, too. No, not a fusion (yet), but by all accounts a pretty major surgery that had me rebuilding my body from the ground up. All of a sudden, all those trips to rehab flashed through my mind. I remembered the first few days after surgery, staying in my parents’ RV out in Colorado and taking the world’s slowest walks around the RV park. Trying to bend over and not being able to get far enough for my hands to hang down even past my hips. Walking in the pool. Running in the pool. Exercise after exercise, hours of time spent with the resistance bands, five minutes on my bike, and, eventually, my first steps back to running on the road.

Hobbling down the streets of Boulder a few days after surgery

I’ve been so caught up in trying to get back to where I was before that I haven’t taken the time to appreciate where I have been. I’ve been busy trying to prove to myself that I can run marathons again, complete a century bike ride, and lose the weight I’ve gained (3 pounds to go!). I’ve been busy being frustrated at myself for not being fast enough, fit enough, or good enough.

Today – and knowing myself, maybe only for today – I’m just going to be proud of myself. I have come such an incredibly long way. Thinking about it actually makes me almost tear up (as close as I generally get to crying). I know that if I was watching AJ or someone close to me go through this process and recover and come back like I have, I would be blown away and so proud. So today, I am blown away by myself and proud. I can do that, right?

I will never be the fastest marathoner in the world, or even most likely in my age group. I may never be able to run the way I used to. But whether I ever set another race PR or not, the real PR is here, in the journey, the comeback, the recovery. I know one day I’ll be walking this road again, and I know I’ll be just fine. And when I get mad that I can’t bend over or run a mile without stopping, I’ll come back to this blog post and remember how I felt today, smirk at how cheesy I sound, and think, “This is gonna be one hell of a comeback.”

If Peyton Manning can do it, we can do it. Ok, fine, probably not. But we can do hard things, and we can be proud of how far we’ve come, even if we still have a long ways to go.  What’s your hard thing?

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