Everyone deals with an injury at sometime or another…we’re human! But I think for runners and other endurance athletes, injuries sideline us more than just physically – the injury can toy with our psyche and emotions.
Last week I was catching up on my Runner’s World issues – and as usual I read Marc Parent’s column. I love his witty banter about being a newbie runner. And in the May 2013 issue, titled “Running Pains Hurts So Good”, he cleverly wrote an article in which he documents a runner’s interest and desire to expose themself to pain on a regular basis:
“Of the many things I pointed to as proof that runners were lunatics, top on the list was their willingness to find pain on a regular basis, invite it into their bodies, and have meaningful interactions with it.”
I laughed so hard reading this article, because he tells the crazy truth about our loveable sport. It’s TRUE!!! We’re addicted to pain – or at least a non-runner’s perception of what is painful. And if you think about it, each of us revels in the lost toenails, the chaffed limbs, and stiff muscles. It’s the reward of our sport…well that and the fact that now you can eat your fro yo without hesitation, but that may just be me
But when this pain crosses into injury, that’s when we step back and reassess where the line that delineates between good pain and bad pain lies:
“How hurt am I really?”
“Do I need to see a doctor?”
“Will a short run really make it worse?”
“When can I run again?”
In late March my lower leg started to hurt. At first it was at the end of the run, then it started earlier and earlier, and then it got to the point that the pain lasted well into the next day. After a month of hoping that a day or two of rest would cure it, I made a doctor’s appointment. I’ve known friends who have dealt with stress fractures and other injuries and I knew that more running had the chance of causing more damage. But for me, that was one of the hardest parts mentally about the injury: that something I love and that is so good for me could now be so wrong.
It wasn’t a stress fracture; the doctor told me it is Tibialis Tendonitis. Pretty much the tendon that supports the arch of my foot was weak and now my arch has collapsed. Rest, ice, and orthotics should do the trick he said. A month later I’m still experiencing pain, although not to the degree I had been.
But still, I had pain and I continued to push myself to get out the door and run. It’s what I do. I’ve created a blog centered around the running community and my love of running. I have medals and race bibs hanging on my wall and my calendar is filled with races and training plans. Without running, how do I define myself?
I was on Facebook last week and a fellow blogger had such similar emotions to injury as me that I cried when I read it:
She was so dead on. Runners are defined by running. Without it we’re a little lost.
For me, I’m still trying to do my thing, although I know that cutting back and giving my body ample rest will only help. I’m on an every other day running schedule to give the tendon a chance to relax and recover. But still, my “thing” is limited.
Even my mom said to me “maybe you should look for a different way to workout”. That wasn’t even an option! Oh silly moms. But as I reflected on her comment, I realized again that Marc Parent’s column rang true – runners have an all out affair with pain, we invite it into our lives regularly and try to hide it from those who just don’t understand.
I hope that you have gotten some sort of point or understanding out of this ramble of a post. I just needed to talk about how I felt about my injury. It’s in the back of my mind constantly, wondering when I’ll feel 100% again to push myself towards my 2nd marathon (see this post).
When I was in State College this past weekend, I ran with a few friends, whom I warned that I had an injury and wouldn’t be quite up to par. Towards the end of the run one of my friends looked back and said “So how’s the ankle”. I simply replied “Not too bad” with an enthusiastic two thumbs up. She snickered and said “So it really hurts by a normal person’s standards huh?”
I guess you learn to live with and even embrace the pain.
“People think I’m crazy to put myself through such torture, though I would argue otherwise. Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness. Dostoyevsky had it right: ‘Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.’ Never are my senses more engaged than when the pain sets in. There is a magic in misery. Just ask any runner.”
― Dean Karnazes