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Confessions of an Injured Runner

Posted Apr 30 2012 3:35pm

You may have noticed that I haven’t really blogged much lately. (And if you haven’t, that’s okay. I know you all have actual lives that involve more than refreshing my blog for a new post). At first it was because things got crazy and I just needed a break to get my life together.

But lately? To be perfectly honest, I’ve sort of been avoiding all things blog-related. Not because I suddenly hate it, but because when you write a running blog and are no longer really able to run, you sort of run out of things to write about (pun most definitely intended).

There’s only so many times you can say: “Yep. My knee still hurts. Nope, I’m not really running,” and lament about the fact that you can feel yourself getting more out of shape by the minute. So instead, I’ve been saving those complaints for EC. And sparing you all the monotony.

But in case any of you were dying for updates, I’ve put together a consolidated list of all the things I’ve been thinking for the past month and a half…but have been a little too ashamed to admit.

Coming to terms with a running injury is like handling any sort of grief. It’s normal to go through stages as you learn to cope:

Denial: I’m not injured. So what if it hurts to walk. I just tweaked something. Give me a few days and I’ll be as good as new.

Anger: This sucks. I hate my body. Why does it fail me all the time? What did I do to deserve this?

Bargaining: Look, body, I know that you’re hurting. But I promise if you please just let me run without pain, I will never mistreat you again. Please, just one run without pain. I promise if you do that for me, I will love running every single day of my life. I will never ever complain again.

Depression/Despair: I will never run again for as long as I live. What’s the point of even hoping. My life is over.

Acceptance: Okay, so maybe I need to take a break for a little while. If I rehab and stay smart now, I will be back running soon. Rest now will make me stronger than ever.

What is probably not so normal is the fact that I’ve been cycling back to depression/despair more often than I would like to admit. Every time I come to a place that seems like acceptance, when a few days go by and I’m still in pain, I go right back to feeling as though I’ll never run again. Logically I know I’m being ridiculous. I know that my injury isn’t really all that bad. And that there’s a chance I’m being just a tad over-dramatic. But logic doesn’t always win.

Plus, letting myself wallow in despair gives me an excuse to be lazy. And sometimes, being lazy is much easier than sticking to an awful cross training regimen.

Meanwhile, EC is running more and faster than ever before. I don’t know why he chose the time that I’m sidelined to take running seriously, but it’s secretly driving me nuts. Just the other day, he went out for a 5 mile run and effortlessly kept a 7:25 pace. I don’t know whether to be proud or hate his guts.

I guess I can’t really blame him though. With places like this all around, it’s really hard to not run.

trail_1See this trail? I want nothing more than to run up it every single day.

I have been taking the news of other runners’ awesome training and amazing race performances with an odd mixture of excitement and depression. This is the fact that I’m probably the least proud of. And the biggest reason why I’ve cut back on my participation in the blog-world. Even though I am very happy for these people, reading about the success of others further highlights your own failings.

I have not been as good about rehabbing my knee as I’d maybe like you all to believe. I blame it on that whole despair thing. And on the mixed messages I received from the orthopedic doc I saw a few weeks ago. While I’ve been stretching, rolling, and taking anti-inflammatory meds like clockwork, I haven’t been great about icing regularly. Or not running at all.

Back at the end of March, I took a full week off of running and just expected my knee to be magically better (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). But ever since my doctor’s appointment when I was told that I could run every other day and that “running won’t do permanent damage” I ended my self-imposed running ban. If a doctor says I could do it, who am I to argue? Plus, with EC being all into running, it’s hard for me to turn down an offer to tag along.

At this point, I’ve tried everything. I got inserts for my shoes. I hated them. I’ve tried different styles of shoes – everything from more supportive to more minimal. Last week, I had myself convinced that if I wore shoes with a low heel-toe offset, focused on my form, and shortened my stride, my knee problems would go away. And it worked – for a few miles. Without fail, 2 or so miles into my run, the pain always comes back.

At this point, I’ve tried everything – EXCEPT for real, sustained time off. Yes, I took a week off in March, but since then I’ve tried running a couple of times a week. And where has that gotten me? Only a little bit better and infinitely more frustrated.

Because when it comes down to it, I am awful at taking my own advice. I can talk to Ali all day long about the benefits of rest. But have I actually been doing it? When I look back at the past couple of weeks, the truth is I have not. Running less is not the same as not running at all.

While I do think there are some mechanical issues with my stride/form that contribute to the pain, clearly changing how I run isn’t going to make it suddenly go away (though hopefully might help prevent injury in the future). I think it’s about time I come to terms with the fact that the only thing that will is time off. I’m trying hard to move into this whole acceptance phase and stay there. Stay tuned.

During those few moments when I’ve moved on from the feelings of despair, I’ve been scheming. Recent Google searches have included “fast fall marathons” and prices for plane tickets to the western part of the country.

this course is fastI like the sound of that

But more than my desire to run fast is this overwhelming urge to just RUN. To feel the wind in my hair, the blood pumping in my veins, the feeling of my heart about to beat out of my chest. To once again lose myself in a long run. To know that my legs carried me for miles from town to town. To feel strong. To move without pain. What I wouldn’t give for a run without pain.

My biggest confession as an injured runner? I am not handling things well. Not all the time, anyway. I know that life is good and that my injury is not all that serious. And that (hopefully) in a few month’s time, this will all be a distant memory. Sometimes it’s just hard to see the forest through the trees.


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