Parsley and Her Stages of Injury Grief

Squint to see me, but that’s my favorite form of alternate summer training- ocean paddle boarding!

Because not running is losing something dear to me.

Relief. When I was finally diagnosed with hamstring tendinopathy, it was almost a relief. I knew something has been wrong for awhile. It seems I’ve spent the past year or so trying to justify my disappointing race results, wanting to figure out why I wasn’t running faster. I wasn’t looking to make excuses, rather analyzing my performances to see what I could improve to do better in the future. And many times things just didn’t add up. It was reassuring to know that something was actually physically holding me back; it wasn’t just me underperforming, getting old, getting weak mentally; my body wasn’t functioning properly to run fast. Now with a proper diagnosis I can fix the issue and get back on the fast track.

Denial. Ok, I have an injury, validated by second and third opinions, plus my own expert internet research that backs up everything the PTs told me. They said I could still run, I just need to cut back mileage and intensity. They also said it would be at least a six-month recovery. Oh, so I can still do a few races to get my fix, and won’t push it too hard because I’ll be limited anyway. And I’m a hard-worker, so of course I’ll attack that PT and push that recovery time and it won’t take me the full 6 months.

Depression. As reality sets in, three months into my recovery, I don’t feel any different. I did run a few races, and tried a few speed sessions, but realized it was futile. Plus, I was most likely delaying my recovery process. Ok, so this means I can just jog a few miles every day really easy, and can’t ever get that endorphin boost from running hard or long. It also means I have to bail on the goal races I had planned for the spring, since I thought surely I’d be recovered in less than half the estimated time. Frustrating that mind over matter doesn’t work in these types of situations.

Acceptance. I need to take all that energy I’d usually devote to running, and devote it to my physical therapy and recovery. Attack this injury like I’d attack a workout. Realize that racing or anything close to actual training is off the table for quite awhile, but I’m lucky that at least I’m still able to run minimally. Maybe this is a good time to explore new cross training options.

Fear. Worry that this could be career-ending. I was just about to start a new phase in my running life (Master’s running- blah!) and feel like I don’t have that much time left before age starts to really slow me down. This could push me past that barrier. Or, it might never go away. This is a tricky injury; it’s not cut and dry like I can run when there’s no pain. Because I’ve never actually experienced real pain with this, just discomfort or a restriction in my mobility. It took a long time to build up to this point, so who knows how long it will really take to go away, and how I’ll know when it does.

I have fun trying to sprint, enjoy long runs in the mountains, and everything in between. Former competitive runner (3 x marathon OTQ & trail marathon national champion) currently working through a lingering injury. I write about trying to stay competitive while raising young kids and moving into a new post-competitive stage.

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  1. Oh goodness. I hope you have better luck with this injury than I have. I’ve been struggling with left-side “high hamstring tendinopathy” since 2014. Hip MRI and x-rays, physical therapy (I tried three different PTs), chiropractic (tried 3 different chiros too!), deep tissue massage, dry needling, ART, graston, acupuncture, more clamshells and glute bridges and donkey kicks and resistance bands and strength training than I could ever tally up. Oh, got fed up and tried the whole six months of absolute rest thing once too — didn’t help a thing long-term, beyond allowing some of the most painful inflammation to settle down.

    After two years of chasing a “high hamstring tendinopathy” injury, the knifelike “high hamstring/deep glute” pain started moving down the posterior lower chain and occasionally became a problem in the belly of the hamstring and behind the knee, often a weird sensation of tightness and “locking up”. At that point, I wised up and took a good, long, thorough read of all my meticulously-kept training logs from the past decade. I realized I’d actually started noticing this kind of weird intermittent jankiness all down the posterior chain in that leg for at least 2 years before it became a showstopping problem. Found a running journal entry from an earlier “pre-problem” chiropractic visit where x-rays showed that my L5 was rotated left and possibly could be messing with the sciatic nerve. I hadn’t thought anything of this at the time and totally forgot about it, but years later I realized maybe my “high hamstring tendinopathy” problem was actually originating higher up — in my back!

    Finally went to one of those regenerative medicine doctors to get a quote for how much a PRP shot would cost. He recommended a lumbar spine MRI, a PRP shot into the lower back near the L5/S1 and a PRP shot into the pain site, which altogether would have cost me $3000+, which I couldn’t afford at the time (this was 2 years ago).

    Anyway, now I’m making a little more money and able to pony up for the lumbar spine MRI. If the MRI doesn’t show anything obvious, I will probably sob my eyes out. I’m so at the end of my rope with this injury.

    Best of luck, and thanks for sharing your story here!

    1. Oh no. Actually, I am not having better luck. I wrote this post quite awhile ago, and need a (sad) update. Unfortunately my situation sounds very similar to yours- multiple PTs, Chiros, therapies approaches, etc., yet the problem continues. Please keep us updated on if you get this resolved!