Shin Splints Killed the Olympics

I suddenly remember why I never made it to the Olympics.

As a doe-eyed youth (you can’t picture it, can you? Go take a swig of black coffee. It helps the imagination), I aspired to go to the Olympics running track and field. Oh wait… I should have clarified that you should swallow that coffee before you keep reading so that you don’t spit your joe all across the screen. I’ll wait while you clean that up.

Basketball was actually my sport de jour, but I had odd fancies about running track. I say odd for several reasons.

  1. I am 5’4″. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
  2. I never actually ran track.
  3. The main reason I never ran track was my insane propensity for shin splints.

I spent every single basketball season taped up like a mummy attempting to alleviate the blinding pain of the shin splints that I acquired within the first 2 days of practice. Never had shin splints? Allow me to attempt a bit of wordsmithing, in the spirit of bringing you up to speed.

Shin splints are like having a 2×4 break into a zillion sharp pieces, and having 18 of them shoved up between the layers of muscle in your leg, with a sensation similar to when you are tired at night and go to put your dirty clothes in the hamper, which happens to be an actual basket, and your clumsy hand hits just right so that a sliver of basket pierces right underneath your fingernail — only the splinters are the size of a large dachshund and every step you take drives them fresh into your shin, causing the muscles all around the shin to panic and start doing that weird, knees together hop that toddlers do when they are bit past their ideal moment for using the restroom.

By the time I got to the end of basketball season, my shins were barely speaking to me (we just don’t seem to talk anymore… sigh), and I could never bring myself to inflict any attempt at track and field on them prior to finding a way to get a leg transplant, and you wouldn’t believe how hard those are to come by.

The height problem was one that certainly afflicted me in basketball. When I first started playing, I had just gotten a huge growth spurt — possibly my first and last, because I got all my height by around 10 years old. Back then, it was only natural for me to not only play basketball, but to play post — the “tall girl” position. As the years progressed, it became apparent to all involved that I had used up all my growth potential in one fell swoop, bur somehow no one ever bothered to teach me any other position, so there I stood, planting under the basket, face to knees with my opponents, and generally not being a resounding athletic success.

Brace yourself for shameless stereotyping: if you are prone to illusions of athletic grandeur, then you are likely the sort of person who watches the Olympics (from the comfort of your couch) and fantasizes about how next time, it will be you (I mean, you have four years. How hard could it be?). It was during this era of delusion in my life that I discovered Gail Devers and that was when I just knew that I was bound for the Olympics, and why? Because she was a track phenom who was also 5’4″. Yep, that is as far as the comparison went in my mind. I was golden (little Olympics pun for you there).

(Side note: one of the more memorable things about Gail Devers was her fingernails. I have no idea how she stomached this, but she had crazy long nails, must have been a foot long, curling up on themselves. On the starting blocks, she had to ball her fists up, knuckles to the ground, because the nails prevented her fully extending her fingers.)

All this came to mind because I currently have blistering shin splints. And not only does this remind me of dreams that have gathered dust over the years, it makes me think about housework and God changing your world.

According to the Mayo Clinic: “Shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone.”

Ever feel that way? Like fulfilling your daily calling is causing your connective tissue to shred? There are seasons when every day feels the same, when the temptation is to feel yourself in a rut, when your mind wanders easily because your heart had already meandered off the tasks God called you to.

Hold fast. Stay the course. Tape yourself together with the plaster of the word of God, and cry out to Him when it hurts, for He hears you.

Learn how to turn to your Lord when the repetition wears you down so that when God blows your normal little world apart, when He asks you to do something bigger and harder and more beautiful than you feel ready to do, your spiritual muscles know what to do, know how not to break under the stress — learn to run to Him when the pace is a jog. He is training you for something infinitely more demanding, more exhausting, more glorious.

He is training you for the Olympics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.