jim alred, v3, readv3, rome, ga

The physician took a long hard look at me, and then uttered a couple of words.

“Not running may be your new normal.”

The surgeon had removed a softball-sized tumor from my left hip the previous day. I was all of 25 years old and just a couple of years removed from turning some super-fast times (for me) as a walk-on at Auburn.

I resisted the suggestion, rehabbed my hip and got back to running.

A few years later following a knee surgery that for some reason my right knee didn’t like much, another surgeon echoed the words.

“Your good running days may be behind you. This might be your new normal.”

This one was tougher. I was older and slower, and the rehab took longer. Even now, I still feel some effects in my knee after some runs. But I’ve managed to keep my old normal as close to my new normal as possible.

I hear the phrase new normal quite often these days and wonder what it means. I had a say in what my new normal in running would look like on two occasions and both times I refused to give in to the easy and fought to insure some semblance of my old normal.

So when I hear the phrase, I bristle a bit out of old habit. I hope my new normal in every future road race doesn’t consist of me running as fast as possible by myself.

That’s called a time trail and while I don’t mind it on occasion, I’m not too hip on doing that from here on out. I want the sense of competition and need the camaraderie that goes along with running those races.

Although I do understand how they aren’t the most hygienic events.

Somehow in all of this craziness Cam Newton, one of my favorite football players because of his time at Auburn, signed a contract with the New England Patriots, who I detest. So my new normal now means I have to pull for the Patriots? Oh goodness.

And while hope springs eternal that college football gets played this fall, there are more than a few voices saying college football might have to move to the spring.

So while I won’t miss watching my beloved Tigers typically lose on the Saturday closest to my birthday in October, fall will be empty without college football.

If stands have to be vacant for high school soccer and show choir to happen now, I’ll deal. Because one thing I hope isn’t a new normal is having to watch my daughter not get to compete in the two things she loves to do.

If it means no more handshakes or hugs between friends, I’ll pay the price. If I need to wear a mask, I will. Get a COVID-19 shot every year? Fine. I already get a flu shot so what’s one more. But I don’t want my new normal to be watching friends and family suffer major financial problems or health issues and find myself awash in a sense of panic and dread.

I’ll coach soccer, but not shake hands and stay six feet away. I’ll run because let’s be honest, I haven’t stopped during this time and if a hip surgery and a knee surgery can’t stop me, well this virus has no chance. Although I do stay a distance from people even moving well out of the way if need be.

So while my new normal could include pulling for the Patriots and college football at Easter, I hope our new normal also means we beat the virus and get back to living the important parts of our lives.

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An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.