This last Spring, I had the best training cycle of my life. After much hemming and hawing over whether I’d go with a higher mileage plan than I’ve done before, I decided to take the plunge with Hanson’s Marathon Method. I was originally worried to take on more miles, as the last two marathons I’d started training for left me injured before I could get to the starting line and I had begun to think that maybe my body just wasn’t built for marathons anymore. But after 18 consistent weeks, I was THRILLED to have made it through training injury-free. The final week before the race left me feeling some niggles in my right leg, but I passed it off as taper crazies.
As I recovered from the marathon though, I could no longer ignore the lingering pain in my lower right leg. As the other muscles returned to their happy state, the leg still felt pretty angry. After ice, ibuprofen, compression, prayer, ignoring, pleading, biofreeze and a few angry words I finally resigned myself to the reality of the situation and made an appointment with my sports chiropractor.
I had to admit it: that nagging, irritating pain wasn’t going away. I was injured.
I approached my chiropractor with my own diagnosis: “I’m having a teeny flare up of tendinitis. Just a little bit. NOTHING like the tendinitis I had two summers ago.” Ahh, yes, this made me feel much better to say it this way. Just a “little” tendinitis. Maybe a week of rest and a couple of Graston treatments and I’d be good to resume my regular running schedule. It was summer and I was really looking forward to building off my marathon base to focus on getting faster. I couldn’t wait to be free from a training plan for a bit and have some sweaty summer fun runs.
One chiro session turned into two, and two into four. The tendinitis was not letting up and in fact, it seemed to be getting worse. I did my best to follow my chiropractor’s advice, but every time we thought it would be okay to attempt a run, the tendons flared up again. It was like one step forward, two steps back. How did I find myself at the losing end of tendinitis once again? I thought this was just a tiny flare up? I did my best during that first month to remain positive. I love road cycling in the summer, so I cross trained a lot on my bike and took care of my leg as well as I could. I iced religiously, once too aggressively, and froze my leg with an ice pack.
The first week of July, I felt 95% healed, and with my chiro’s blessing, I started running again. I had a plan to ease my way back into running, because I knew I would need some time to rebuild my strength and endurance. I tried not to feel discouraged at the loss of fitness and how hard running suddenly seemed, because a difficult run is better than no run at all.
But no run at all is where I found myself after just one week of running again. A run in a new pair of shoes that 100% did not work for me re-angered my nearly healed tendons, and to make matters worse, now both legs were injured.
From here the story gets boring; my right leg is perfectly fine now, but I’m having a hard time with the left. I have nothing new or novel to say about my running, because I’m not running. I have no training logs because there is no training about which to write. At this point, nobody is asking me how I’m doing, but rather, “How is your leg doing?” I’m grateful for all the support, but I also feel a lot of pressure to provide an appropriate response. There are only so many ways a person can say “It’s not better.” I don’t see the light at the end of the injury tunnel because every time I think I’m getting close to the other side, I have a setback. All the cross-training in the world can’t fill that part of my soul that needs running.
I am teetering on the edge of just giving up the fight, because I can’t allow myself to get my hopes up, only to find myself at another Graston treatment. It’s hard to ignore the voice in my head that keeps telling me it’s foolish to continue to train for races because I always end up hurt. It’s hard to see my friends reaching their running goals and building excitement for upcoming races while I watch silently from the sidelines. It’s hard to feel like I have nothing to contribute to a conversation about running because it feels like it’s been so long since I’ve done it, and it’s hard to not become resentful at the situation.
When I talk about it I elicit pity, but it feels awful to have others feel sorry for me. It’s vulnerable and I feel weak. It’s become difficult to separate my injury from who I am as a runner. I spend a lot of mental energy trying to hope and think my leg better, because otherwise I feel like I’m not trying hard enough to heal.
Any person who knows me can attest to the fact that I am generally an optimistic person; I try to approach difficulties with humor and positivity. I try to remember that I have my whole life to run and in the grand scheme of things, this injury is merely a blip in time. Being in the middle of an injury can make it seem like it’s our entire world. It can consume us. In moments like this it is helpful to lean on those who have been there and listen to their stories of success in making it to the other side. For me, it provides the ray of hope I need to keep my optimism.
For today, I will take care of myself. I’ll tell myself it’s okay to miss running and it’s natural to be disappointed. An injury isn’t the end of everything, even if it feels that way.
Have you ever felt defined by a running injury?