What Do You Do When the Injury-Free Runner Gets Injured?

Perseverance ...  Never stop running forward (...

When you have run for years without injury, and then get sidelined due to (frankly) your own stupidity….

Well, it sucks.

I can’t sugar-coat it.

I have been running for fifteen years.  I have been (to my schedule’s ability) training and marathoning for eight years.  I am not a huge mileage beast like some of our Salties, as I have a full time+ job, 2 kids with busy schedules and a husband with an extracurricular schedule that rivals my own, but I am known to consistently put in 50, 60, 70 and sometimes 80 mile weeks during my bi-annual training seasons.

For all of these years, I have done it without injury.

Until now.

I am hurt. (F#$%&ksc!)

The worst part is that I knew it wouldn’t be running that would take me down.

I am pretty darn resilient in that respect.  I’ve had aches and nags and stabs here and there, but nothing has sidelined me for more than a couple of days.  I am also typically cautious about extracurricular activities.  For example, I have declined great sounding skiing trips because I was afraid of wiping out and botching a great running season.  My friends have always said I am way too cautious, but I knew I was right…

Why?  Because this strategy has worked very well for me. Until about 2 weeks ago, that is.  

I mentioned last week that I was recently in Grand Teton National Park / Jackson Hole.  It was an amazing trip.  My boys have been doing a mountain biking club, so when they saw they could hit the mountain trails, they were all in.  It was impossible for me not to ride that energy and get in on it.  It was epic – even if a little scary.

We put on a crazy enough amount of protective gear to look like Gladiators.  The boys were thrilled.  The nice folks outfitting us assured it would be fine (uh huh)…..

Ready to ride, baby!
Ready to ride, baby!

The first time we rode the ski lift up the mountain with our bikes in tow, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “what the hell are we doing?!” (for the record, we actually repeated this dialog every time we climbed the mountain).

We got off the lift, grabbed our bikes and took off.  It was crazy scary and I rode my brakes as I went over jumps and around turns down the mountain.  Cautious was more than the name of the game.  But it was AWESOME!  After doing it 5-6 times, the tide changed.  I was comfortable.  I was moving with my bike.  I was rocking this! (famous last words). As I hit my last run, I hot-dogged it a bit too much, hit a jump WAY too fast and ended up wiping out BIG time.  I landed on my left side after a good 10 foot fall with my bike.  Thankfully I did not hit my head, but my shoulder and hip took the brunt of the fall.

All I wanted to do was scream to my husband, John, as I knew he was coming behind me and didn’t want him to hit me between the jumps.  But all oxygen had been sucked out of my lungs.  I had no air to make a sound despite multiple attempts.  Thankfully, John saw the plume of dirt and slowed to a stop before the jump that took at least a month from me.  He helped me move off the trail to evaluate.  It hurt, but was I HURT?

We concluded no.

I had range of movement in my shoulder and my elbow, which looked iffy, but it really was okay.  Nothing appeared broken.  Alright.  Right?  Sort of.

And  then no.  After a couple of days, my left leg turned purple.  Migrating from my hip to below my knee.  When I tried to run, it was apparent I had an inner thigh/groin injury too.  My shoulder was unbearable and it moved viciously to my back.

Are you kidding me?!

The sad part is that this is not what hurts.
The sad part is that this is not even what hurts.

I took it easy the last week, but by Saturday, I could barely move without severe  upper back pain.  My groin/inner left thigh is also screaming when I walk, let alone run.  

I am officially out for the Columbus Marathon.

This means I am officially hurty and cranky.

I am not usually hurty and cranky, so it really SUCKS.

If anyone has advice for the injury-free runner who gets sidelined by stupidity, I am all ears.  How do you deal with it mentally while you can’t run? What do you do to cross train?

Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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  1. Yuck! I know that whole body ache thing when you fall. No fun!

    The good news is that usually if you have a nonrunning injury, you can be back up at it really quickly. You should heal relatively quickly and then your running muscles should be fine since it wasn’t running that caused the injuries. Also, running shouldn’t impede your improvement once you get over the “hump.” The pain and soreness will peak and then start improving (shouldn’t take more than a week) and then you can start to ease back in. It will probably only take you a week, two at the most to get back to where you left off. Of course, if you’re seeing a professional, defer to him or her because I’m not a medical professional and can only speak from personal experience 🙂

    As for Cbus, you have over three months still. Why do you think you’re out for sure? You are very experienced with a huge mileage base. I would think you could whip yourself into good shape in 12ish weeks. No?

    1. Unfortunately it has been just over 2 weeks and I am definitely not over the hump. My best guess is I have about 2 more weeks to go before I can resume any sort of training. If I try to run at all, I have severe inner thigh/groin pain – which I certainly don’t want to mess with. So patience is my friend right now.

      I know I *could* still run Columbus, but it would be slow and I’d have to really adjust my expectations. I really have no base right now and don’t want to slap together a few weeks for a sub-par performance. I am just not wired that way (go big or go home, baby!). Instead I’d prefer to shoot for a shorter distance that I can get decent training for and aim for a strong performance.

      1. Aw man! Severe pain is no bueno! Maybe get it checked out?

        I get it on the gbogh front. I wonder how in shape you could get in 12 weeks? But I understand not wanting to waste a marathon on an experiment.

        1. Yeah – remember that I didn’t just fall – I crashed and fell about 10 feet after flying over a jump on a bike. Ouch. I don’t think I need to get it checked just yet. The medic I talked to told me that there wasn’t much they could do about the shoulder since nothing was broken or torn, and that it would take a long time to heal. As for the groin pull, I read a fair bit about it and learned I need to just give it time. I haven’t run since last Thursday and it already feels a lot better (80%?).

          Not sure what I’ll do, but it will definitely be an experiment! I’ll keep you posted. Thanks so much for your support.

          1. Yeah. I have only dealt with bad running falls which are much lower to the ground and probably significantly less impact. I am glad you’re as better as you are already! Hopefully this season ends up surprising you.

  2. Wahhhh that looks HORRIBLE!!! I am lucky that nothing of that magnitude has happened to me (yet), but I’m the same way in that I have yet to be majorly sidelined by a “running” injury and instead usually find myself out for a week or so based on tripping, falling and smashing my knees into the ground (or some similar clumsy injury!) Hope you heal up much more quickly than expected and can get back in the game!!

    1. Thanks so much, Rachel! Yes, it really does look horrible. Fortunately it is fading quickly this week. We went to a pool party on the 4th of July and it was a bit embarrassing running around in a swim suit with that! Fortunately it was with friends and they all know what happened, but still.

      Stay safe/unhurt while not running. 🙂

  3. Owwww, that looks so painful! (even though you said that’s not what really hurts!)

    Have you seen a medical professional? Whenever I injure myself I go to see my chiropractor who does Active Release. He’s very gentle with my injuries, and often times I’ll just end up with electrostim & kinesio taping – both of which I swear by to help speed healing (I don’t care if they are placebos … if I think they work, they work! 😀 ).

    I hope you have a speedy recovery!

    1. Thank you so much for chiming in. I have been thinking about seeing a chiropractor because I do feel “off” but I assumed I needed to wait to heal a little more before someone starts trying to pull on me and potentially make it worse. I’ve never been to a chiro before though, so maybe my expectations are incorrect. I think I will give one a call and see what they say.

  4. Ouch!

    And I’m with ya, right now. I’m injured too and so so so hurty and crabby.

    Personally, I wouldn’t wait. I’d schedule an appt with a sports med doc right away, so you aren’t that much further behind when you decide to finally schedule an appt.

      1. Thanks ladies. I don’t really agree though for 2 reasons. First, the medic I talked to said it seemed pretty clear that nothing was broken or torn, so there is nothing they can really do. Sure, I could get an x-ray or MRI, but I don’t think it will reveal anything. I have muscular pain, but it doesn’t feel torn and it definitely is not broken (thank goodness). Second, I know it will take me weeks to get in to see them and then they’ll just tell me to rest. MAYBE they’ll also refer me to PT. But it seems like a big waste of time and money to me when I can find good PT info online on my own (and am gently stretching the shoulder/arm). I may look into the chiro thing though…

  5. Also take an inventory of what you can still do. Yoga, swimming, ellpitical, weights, water jogging, etc…. There are plenty of options to stay fit (and sane, frankly). You are the only one who knows what you can do without pain, though.

    1. Thanks Theia! Good advice and I really am trying to inventory. Right now the only viable option seems to be walking. My shoulder is still too wonky to swim, do yoga, etc. I would really LOVE some yoga and/or pilates right about now though. I think I’ll be able to do at least modified versions of them soon.

  6. That is one awesome skin trophy. Well worth it. But maybe not if you are out for the Columbus marathon sucks. Insert F-bombs as needed.

    You’re kind of a bad-ass now if you weren’t already.

    1. Right on!

      This officially gets my vote as comment of the year BTW. It doesn’t get much better than skin trophies, f-bombs and conferment of bad-assery. 🙂

  7. Awww… Injured and cranky is no way to spend the summer. I’m sorry that you’ll be sidelined from Columbus.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  8. Sorry to hear! I had a really bad bike crash in the summer of 2010. Bruised my entire right side, arm and shoulder. To this day, I have no idea how I didn’t break any bones. I couldn’t wear pants for 6 weeks because of the road rash and bruising, and it was over 2 months before I could wear jeans. I was swollen, and the bruising was all internal and started draining down my leg. Anyway, my biggest mistake was trying to rush back into running and my normal schedule too quickly, which resulted in me nearly passing out in the middle of a race and taking much longer to recover. The other thing I suggest is to get your bloodwork checked. I discovered that the bleeding, although it was internal, threw me into an anemic state where my iron was only 13! 13–when it should be way over 100. For four weeks after the crash, I was constantly dizzy, tired, and sick when finally my friend urged me to see my doc. Don’t rush back the recovery, and take it easy. Marathons will always be there whether it’s Columbus, Boston or Chicago.

    If you do go to a massage therapist–be specific on what happened. I saw one a couple of times, but she was careful to promote bloodflow without additional harm. Good luck and stay positive. A positive attitude will go much farther and allow you to heal more quickly than being cranky!

    1. Oh my! I am glad you are okay – that sounds awful! I too am kind of amazed (but very thankful) I didn’t break anything. Interesting about the iron levels. I was actually pretty dizzy about a week after it all happened any time I exerted myself (I did try one run), but thankfully that has subsided. I appreciate your advice and will try to be positive! I really am not too bad. The day I wrote this, I was admittedly having a rough time accepting where I was though. Onward!

  9. I take major wipe-outs riding a bike on flat paved surfaces, so I give you major cred for doing the kind of ride you were on! Hope you heal well and am glad to know things aren’t super severe and that you are recovering (even if it isn’t as quickly as you would like). Keep us updated! Wishing you the best and quickest recovery. And flaunt that bruise girl– definitely a token of badassery!

    1. Haha – love it. The funny thing is I too wipe out on flat paved surfaces, which shows that doing the mountain bike gig may not have been the wisest of moves on my part. It sure was fun though (until that hurt part came into play).;)

  10. What does one do when they want to run and physically can’t? Regarding the mental challenge, here are my thoughts:

    Focus on what you CAN control… not what is out of your control. It’s frustrating (you know I speak from lots of experience) and it’s easy to obsess about what you should be doing…. what you COULD be doing…. what you WANT to be doing.. and specifically which races are slipping away from your reach.

    Obsessing on those factors will drive you mad, and bring much negativity to many aspects of your life.

    Focus on what is in your control. Can you cross train? Try different stuff. Again, don’t obsess about “This isn’t running! This sucks!” Toss that idea in the trash for now. Focus on “Pilates is helping to focus on my core”, or “Spinning allows me to work on cardio” or “time to work on upper body strength”. (all depending on what your body allows at any given time, of course.)

    Even taking proactive steps to go to a doctor (including chrio or active release therapy folks) can be good both from a physical aspect, as well as a mental one.

    Accept that your body needs time to heal. How much time? Who knows. Again.. that is something outside your control. Like a bad relationship, don’t give it another thought and walk away from it.

    Focus on the good parts of life…. what you can do fitness wise… and if all else fails, take the (cough) free time that you would usually apply to running to other aspects. (Special closet clean-out tasks, extra time with the kiddos, do your own detail work on the car, etc.) Find something positive to use as a focal point.

    It’s up to you, chica. Either you allow the frustration of the injury / being sidelined to control your life, or you grab the bull by the freaking horns and make your own path while your body does whatever it needs to do for proper healing.

    Olé , my friend….

    1. You are awesome. Thank you. I agree 100%. The primary reason I decided to pull the plug on Columbus right awaywas because I didn’t want that to hang over me. I had really big goals for that race and I knew they went out the window when I took my fall (if not earlier to be totally honest). I already feel so much better knowing that I am not missing scheduled workouts, etc. It is over, I am not training right now and I am healing. Side bar: I know that will get old quick though, so count on me asking for your advice multiple times. 🙂

      On another note, you are totally right. I have been shocked at how much extra time I seem to have had the last 2 weeks!

  11. Me too!!! Me too, me too, me too!! I’m never hurt! I secretly laugh at all my friends who get silly injuries! I can run 50ks with NO TRAINING and escape completely unscathed with a respectable time. I am invincible! Until now.

    I ran a marathon at 12 weeks pregnant, 20 minuts slower than usual and felt great. Until I learned that the cramps I ignored while storming up the hills were me pulling ligaments in my stupid knee. ARGHHHHH.

    I’m attempting to pretend I live swimming. But swimming is HARD and I’m SLOW.

    Bah humbug.

    1. Oh nooooooo! Bah humbug indeed.

      The upside I keep telling myself is that at least I am not suffering through hard workouts in the summer heat. [No, it doesn’t really work, but I keep trying].

      Hope that knee heals up quickly so you and the babe are running again soon!

  12. Wow, you have already received so much GREAT advice! Really sorry about your injury – it was a doozy! I can only commiserate about the mental anguish of losing a passion. I think I actually had a panic attack during a LONG bout with plantar fasciitis last year when I realized that no matter how many times I tried to continue through the injury, I just couldn’t run. The mental part is worse than the physical injury, yes? Alas, that dreaded four-letter word, r-e-s-t, really is magical and heals all wounds. Your time will come again, sooner than you can imagine, to lace up your shoes and get back out there. The best part for me, of feeling healthy again, is the appreciation of good health. I feel fortunate that I can finally do the things I want to do this summer. Pamper, relax, and I wish you the speediest of recoveries!

    1. Thanks Marti! You are right, the advice and support here have been awesome (thanks again to everyone).

      The mental part is def. the worst (Rest IS a very pointed four letter word!).

      But it is needed. The last couple of days I have really stopped to notice and be thankful for how I have been fortunate enough to have good health for so many years. It is easy to take for granted when you are not in pain. And it has given me much respect for those who struggle with it every day. So even if I am sidelined, gratitude abounds at the same time.

      It also helps my kids have been running tons lately! They are getting ready for Fall XC and tonight I hopped on a bike (mountain bike no less) and rode alongside six 6th and 7th grade boys and (GOTR alum) girls while they ran a bit over 3 miles. It was almost as good as being able to run myself!