Nursing a running injury is never fun. Actually, I believe that’s putting it lightly. It’s a time when all of my goals are put on the shelf and the possibility of attaining them suddenly seems unlikely. Doubt begins to run rampant and returning to full strength starts to feel impossible. I know that only rest and rehabilitation are the only cures, but I refuse to stop training. However, I know that if I want to be pain-free I must begin to follow my usual steps of recovery. I have listed these steps as well as explanations for each below.
When I first suffer an injury of any sort I start off by going through a period of denial. Before my current injury presented itself I didn’t even know what the Soleus Muscle was or did. Frankly, I didn’t care. But, it was on a 9 mile training run that I was introduced to this muscle and the pain that it provides. I noticed a pain under my left calf that was similar to a charley horse about 4 miles into my 9 mile run. Because it did not prevent me from running I continued to fight through the pain, which later led to tightness in the lower part of my leg. By the end of the run, the pain, though bearable, made it a daunting task to walk. I attributed the pain to something else entirely and did my best to dispose of any negative thoughts. I wouldn’t even allow myself to look on the Internet for possible explanations to what I was feeling. To me it was just soreness that would subside in the days to follow. Even then I knew, in the back of my mind, that it was likely an injury. I think we all, as runners, really know when we’re injured. We just don’t want to have to stop running.
Flash forward to today, about two weeks later, and the pain is still apparent on even short runs. I know it’s imperative to stop training for the time being and allow it to heal. However, we have already deviated from our training plan and it looks impossible for me to allow adequate time to heal and train for the full marathon in November. I try to convince Rachel to allow me to just push through the pain and continue training, but my attempts are futile. Two weeks ago I was worried that I was missing a couple of days of training because of a cold. Now, I am out for an indefinite period of time because of a supposed injury.
The next step in dealing with an injury is acceptance. Rachel and I have talked about running the half marathon in November and pushing back the full marathon until December or February, but the thought of that makes me sick. I never start something I don’t intend to finish. But, the reality of what could happen if I allow the injury to manifest itself into something far worse is enough to derail my plans. I have always said that everything happens for a reason. If I am not supposed to run this full marathon then perhaps something else is in store for me. That’s a little harder to comprehend at this point in time. However, I accept the fact that I am injured and I understand what comes next.
Rest has to be the hardest part of dealing with a running injury. It is a time when all I want to do is just run, even if it’s for a mile. I just want to get out there and start moving. Every day that passes just seems to move me further and further from my goal. I have battled back from injuries before and been able to complete every goal I set before me on time. However, it looks as though this injury could seriously endanger that. For now I will just continue to take it day by day and hope for the best. It is much easier said than done. Not running is just too much to take, but it is something I have to do. I must remember that the beauty of running is that there’s always another race. I must allow my body to heal.
The next step I always encounter with my injuries is the daily test. What I mean by this is the status check of an injury by way of poking, prodding, stretching and running back in forth for just a few steps to test the injury and see if it feels any better. This is sure to happen at least 20 to 25 times a day in the days to come. I have also been known to wake up in the middle of the night, get out of bed, and run or walk back and forth just to see if I am miraculously healed.
The fool’s gold part of any injury is one I dread. There will be many days where I am going to wake up and feel like my soleus muscle is healed. I will run my fingers across it and all pain will be absent. I will walk around and stretch in various ways like a yoga master on crack and I will think I feel nothing. Next, I will run. I am not talking about a mile run, just a run from the living room to the bedroom. In that time I will fall victim to the evil fool’s gold (you’re not really healed ha ha) portion of the recovery process. I may be somewhat better, but healed, um, not so much.
Rehabilitation has to be the best part of the recovery process. It is a time when I know that I have passed the daily test and concluded that it is not fool’s gold – the injury seems truly healed. But, we all know that we are not really healed until we work our way up in mileage once again. Thus, I would be starting off running just a mile at an extremely slow pace. My endurance must be built up again as well. It is always difficult to completely feel comfortable when I begin running again because I have a tendency to want to baby the injury. This may go on for a few days before I ever feel completely comfortable running again. But, rehabilitation is a step I hope to be at very soon. I would give anything to be there right now.
Sometimes we set goals for ourselves and we can’t always accomplish them on our schedule, but I guess what matters is that someday, whatever day or time that may be, we accomplish them. All I know right now is that I am runner whether I am standing, sitting or lying down and nobody can take that from me. This injury will not stop me from running. It will just make me start again. I just have to remind myself that there’s always a finish line…I just have to keep moving toward it even if I can’t run.