Evolution of an Injured Runner
Just like the beginning runner evolves into a leaner, faster, more knowledgeable athlete with time and training, so too does the injured one evolve into one who remains pleasant company despite his inward crankiness and stir-crazy circumstances. At least, in theory he does. Or at least he can, if his mind is in the right place.
While the last year and a half has allowed me to run injury free outside of the occasional twinge or sore spot that could be easily treated with ice and a day or two off, I now find myself at the beginning of a second week of practically no physical activity at all — part of the prescribed two week rest period ordered by my doctor in order to further heal whatever imbalance is still causing ITBS symptoms in my right leg.
I’m injured. I can’t run. I have no choice but to deal with it. Though I admit, sometimes “dealing with it” can be very difficult.
In April 2011, I suffered a meniscus tear to my left knee during the Go! St. Louis Marathon and was sidelined for six long, hellish weeks. It was my first serious injury and I didn’t know how to handle it. Looking back, I was nothing short of a baby. I whined. I complained. I pouted. I kicked the dirt saying “woe is me, boo hoo hoo.”
Once I got healthy and was back into training, I learned to cherish every single step I am able to take — to appreciate even the smallest of running achievements, whether it’s just getting out the door or accomplishing a major goal. I learned that it could all go away in an instant, that nothing — even our own physical ability — is guaranteed. And I learned that, like sex and pizza, even when it’s bad it’s good.
Professional athletes get injured all of the time. Derrick Rose, Jay Cutler, Desiree Davila… these are just a few of my favorite athletes who have suffered devastating injuries requiring an extended period of time off. Davila had to drop early from the London Olympic Marathon — her dream event. Cutler’s 2011 injury forced the Bears into one of the worst season-ending tailspins of recent memory. And D-Rose is likely going to miss the entire 2012-13 campaign.
Devastation can be a mental consequence from injury, yes, but the human body has a marvelous way of recovering if given time and treatment. The mind must remember this. Shit happens, everyone can agree. The mature, learned athlete accepts his situation and focuses his energy on doing what is necessary to get back on the field/court/road. Perhaps even more importantly, he learns to be mindful of the negative thoughts that may try to override his patience and he takes an active approach to taming them.
Adapting to the situation is one of the most important attributes a long distance runner can have. For me, utilizing that ability has never resulted in negative consequences during a race. I don’t suspect it would now as I dig deep to find the patience I need to get better, so I can get back to doing what I love to do.
With that in mind and a best case scenario of 3-4 weeks to train before a two week taper, it is highly unlikely that I will be able to attempt a sub-3 hour marathon at Houston this coming January; but once healthy, I will have plenty of opportunities to go for it in the future. Right now the best thing I can do is concentrate on getting better. I am still able bodied and I can stay active with the types of exercise I am allowed to do.
Doing as many push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups as I can will get me the endorphin rush I so often crave. And with it being the holidays and all, my appetite will dictate that I do a whole lot of that.
I’ll even wear a smile on my face, because like someone said a bazillion years ago (probably), this too shall pass…
I’m sure I’ve left a similar comment in a previous post, but it’s worth reiterating. Running (like any sport, really) can be very life affirming when one is saddled with injuries. Not only does it make you realize how much you enjoy the physical act of running, but once better, every single step you take can put a smile on your face.
I don’t mean to rub it in, but that’s exactly where I am now. While it is very possible that tomorrow I too can suffer a big injury that forces me to change (or completely stop) my training and racing schedule, I get extremely happy every time I knock out a run or a race with zero pain or injuries. The reason for this is because I remember what it was like to be sidelined, either not running at all, or holding back at a race because I didn’t want to make things worse.
Anyway, if you tackle recovery like you train for races, I’m certain that you’ll bounce back with a greater resolve to beat the 3:00 ghost. Make it happen.
November 25, 2012 at 20:26
Thanks, Dan! It’s fun to watch you grow and develop as a runner as well. Keep up the good work. With that mindset, you’re going to continue to do great things.
November 26, 2012 at 08:14
I hope you get better soon, Jeff. Your attitude is awesom! All the best through out the holidays.
November 26, 2012 at 00:17
Thanks, Mike! Thanks for stopping by. Much appreciated!
November 26, 2012 at 08:14
Good luck in your recovery Jeff! It sucks being injured! I had some tendonitis issues in my foot awhile back and was out from running altogether for about 2 weeks. It was probably 8 weeks before I was 100%. I can’t help but think my recovery would have been much faster if I had simply accepted the fact that I was injured earlier. I kept trying to run shorter or slower, and add braces, padding, or other miracle cures when all I really needed was a little rest.
Eventually I found other activities that didn’t aggravate my injury, like hiking/walking, crossfit (excluding any exercises that hurt my foot), weightlifting, or even just getting outside. None of it was quite as nice as running, but all of the small things helped me keep my sanity until I was ready to hit the road again.
You’ve got a great attitude, and I’m sure you’ll bounce back quickly. Best of luck, and I enjoy following your blog. I can’t wait to read about your sub-3:00 marathon!
November 26, 2012 at 13:31
Thanks, Dave! Yeah, I probably didn’t help myself by trying all the “gadgets” and “miracle cures” (none of which worked, by the way) instead of resting, but I know better now. Still getting in my strength workouts, so that helps. Thanks for checking in!
November 26, 2012 at 19:39