Running has been my life for the past 7 years. I rediscovered it on a beach in Jamaica, and when that happened, I rediscovered myself.
Then my husband roped me into Salsa lessons. At the first sign of foot distress, I blamed the dancing. For a couple of months I suspected it was the salsa shoes and opted for “dance sneakers” to help ease the force placed on the ball of my foot. But before I could even try these beauties out, the damage had already been done. Sure, I enjoyed the Salsa, but it wasn’t worth the cost of my passion.
We all have an injury story. I’ve had my fair share, but never to the extent of what I have now: a diagnosed partial tear of the Flexor Hallucis Longus, a new part of my anatomical vocabulary, and literally one of those muscles you never even knew you had.
Guess what? I’m special. Tearing the FHL is such a rare condition that nobody really knows how to treat it. Doctors are forced to look up case studies and, at best, provide a prescription for the most conservative treatment out there: Boot and Scooter, or what I now coin as “BS” for short.
My good pal Joe labels this sort of thing A.F.O.G.: Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth.
It wasn’t the Salsa, though, it was the Shotgun Trail race that sealed the deal.
I’m a newbie to trail running and have been using trail races to up my fitness ante. But wouldn’t you know it, every trail race or run thus far has landed me in the injury dugout. Nonetheless, I’ve persevered, at least until Shotgun. This delightful course has miles and miles of uphill switchbacks; tons of mud, rocks, tree roots… You name it, Shotgun has it. And I relished every minute of it.
It was a cold and wet day in early April. A couple of friends and I carpooled together and swept the course, coming first, second and third overall. I ran this race HARD. My first place pal’s alias is “The Bavarian Bullet,” and I was tailing close behind, if you get my drift. I felt great until I fell up … Yes, I said up; I fell going uphill. It seemed innocuous at first; I just got back on my feet and kept going. I was feeling tough until the last mile and a half of downhill, when suddenly the arch of my right foot sang with pain.
As anyone who’s run hard knows, you either feel everything or feel nothing when racing. I tend to be on the “nothing” side, so to feel “something” meant something not so good.
Sure enough, the next day my foot swelled up like a balloon and I knew that this wasn’t your everyday run-of-the-mill, niggle. A couple of weeks and an MRI later, the doc broke the news to me.
It’s easy, at times like this to catastrophize: What if I NEVER run again? What if this NEVER gets better? When a runner’s injured like this, she cycles through the stages of grief. Depression, Anger, Bargaining, Denial, Acceptance, repeat in no specific order, and again and again until she finds Acceptance and does what’s necessary to figure out how to live without running for a while.
If it’s a hard place for a runner to occupy, it’s just as hard for a runner’s family to bear. The dog I run with, my running friends, and of course my partner are all suffering along with me. What makes my situation especially unique is that my partner is an Orthopedic Surgeon. Not only does he have to live with an obsessed runner, but he has the added pressure of knowing as much as one can about the injury and yet still being powerless to fix to the suffering.
Because there is no “quick fix” to these things and this is hard to swallow… for the both of us!
Now, nearing the end of my first week post-diagnosis, I’m sitting in Hawaii not running. I suppose if one is suffering, it’s nice to suffer in paradise? I’m taking my walks in Birkenstocks and swimming (ocean jogging!) every morning and watching what seems like THOUSANDS of runners on the boardwalk. At this point I’m not even contemplating a boot/scooter combo (Stage 4 denial?); I’ll consider my options aprés vacation. For now, I’ll try to remind myself this is Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth.