A tough place to be

Distance: 8.5 mi

Miles to go: 1621

My depressing entry into the Take it and run Thursday at the Runner’s Lounge.

There is nothing, in my opinion, tougher for any athlete to deal with than overcoming an injury.  There is no blacker, lonlier time than that spent waiting, watching everyone else competing and getting better, experiencing the joy of running.  For me anyway, this hurt as much as the injury.

See, this time last year I was training for a marathon.  On one hot and humid day I was running down some obscure trail, grinding through the doldrums of summer runs that seemed to drag on, meaningless and void of purpose.  I felt a twinge in a very personal spot.  I wrote it off as a muscle cramp due to dehydration, but it got so bad that I had to eventually stop and then walk the 4 miles back to the truck.  At first, it was transient, coming and going randomly.  But eventually the pain began to accompany all of my runs up to, including, and after my marathon.  The best way to describe it is like being kicked in the groin every step for 26 miles.

I took some time off after the marathon and then began refocus on my next goal, to get under 22 minutes for the 5K.  What would be my “last” run was a 22:30 5K, 3 weeks after the marathon.  I remember thinking during the run that 22 minutes was in easy reach.  But as soon as I crossed the finish line, I felt this intense pain that would not go away.

Four months of darkness ensued (not helped by the fact it was winter, which is usually a depressing time anyway…).  It took almost a month of poking and prodding my personal spaces before an MRI revealed a stress fracture in the small connector between the two halves of the pelvis.  My doctor, a noted sports specialist in this area, even admitted this was the first time he had seen this particular injury in a male.  It’s mostly a female running injury (read: I run like a girl… Which is a COMPLIMENT… around here, chicks rule!!).  The only cure was to do absolutely NOTHING for four months.  Not even a cast to sign…

In my infinite idiocy, I would push this from time to time when I thought I was feeling better.  It is clear now that if I hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have been off those extra two months.

But I was desperate.  I still am.  I needed a positive.  A fix.  Something to keep those “just quit” demons out of my head.  I really wanted to give up.  And, from time to time, I still do.

I think I am getting better, but I’m running wrong now and I know it.  I limp. I protect my legs/hips/pelvis too much and because of this my knees hurt now and so does my ankle.  It seems like one thing after another is failing on my body and it honestly has me wondering how much longer I will physically BE ABLE to run.  At some point I have to be honest with myself and admit this may be hurting more than helping.  That day hasn’t come yet but I already fear it worse than death.

To step away from all of this is hard.  To “hover over it and be rational” is even harder.  I know the doctor said it could take up to a year for me to fully heal.  I have backed off to 4 days a week running and I now ride my bike to work (10 miles) a couple of days a week.  I have to believe this is enough and that eventually I will be better and can resume a full schedule.  The bigger picture is that I need to be careful… cautious… go slow.  Enjoy each day that I CAN run and not worry on the days I hurt too much.  But I’ve never been rational about this.  I still feel trapped and frustrated and depressed.

I think this place, the mental game you play to stay alive when you get hurt, is the toughest place for a runner to be.  And, unfortunately, I have no pearls of wisdom to impart on you.  It sucks.  All I can say is go easy and do what your doctor says or the suckage will be extended exponentially.  There is no cross training for mental toughness.  There is no easy fix for runners withdrawal.  And each time you “recover” you have to start over.

This wasn’t meant to be depressing, but I guess it is.  If you have never had a serious injury, congratulations.  if you want one, I have a couple extras I could share with you.  I certainly don’t want them anymore.


5 Responses to A tough place to be

  1. Betsy says:

    That really is tough, and you have my sympathies. When an injury sidelines me, I think about the way they shoot racehorses with broken legs. And everyone in the world but you is out running. Hang in there, my friend. You’ll get past this.

  2. Nat says:

    That sounds awful and lonely indeed. We runners are a stubborn breed, I know it took barely being able to walk before I stopped (also post marathon). Nothing quite as drastic as your recovery. It’s what we all feel. Pain.

    I don’t comment often, but do enjoy your blog.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Recovery – It sucks, but we must do it in order to be able to do what we love. I’ve never loved running, but when I sprained my ankle pre-marathon last year I thought it was the end of the world, I was only off for 4 weeks, not 4 months! I’m really sorry you are struggling with your recovery, wish I had some great words of wisdom, but I’ve never been that wise! Do what the doc says, it’s for your own good! I think that’s what you would say to your own children.

  4. Bob Allen says:

    That’s a real bummer. I’ve not had an injury that put me out that long. A torn meniscus put me out for 3 months and achilles tendonosis put me out for a month. So, I only have a very small idea of what you’re going through. Good luck on the recovery.

  5. heatherdaniel says:

    Good luck with the recovery. It sounds very lonely and very tough. You’re going to get there and I predict a sub 21 minute 5K! Be patient….(always easier said than done, especially for us runners).


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