12 weeks into training, and less than six weeks away from what should be my second marathon, the thing every runner fears – injury!
I thought I would be writing about my 20-mile training run, tapering madness, and the final prep for the 40th Anniversary of the Chicago Marathon, but instead I sit with a boot on my left leg.
At the end of August, after a 14 mile run, I had no indication anything was awry. The weather was perfect and the run was really smooth. Later in the evening and especially the next day, I started feeling some pain in my lower shin area just above my ankle, but without any visible swelling, I didn’t really think much of it. I had a planned rest day anyway due to moving our son to college to begin his freshman year. However, a few days later, at the next planned training run, I felt out of sorts and clunky. I couldn’t get up to my targeted pace and my legs felt like I had led in my shoes, not to mention increased pain in my leg.
About 2.5 miles into the run, my husband approached me on the track as he noticed that I was limping. After his prodding, I yielded and stopped my run. I thought a few additional days of rest was all I needed and would be fine by the weekend. The pain was a little worse, but again no visible swelling, and just some tenderness to the touch. I continued to ice, elevate and rest and I did feel like it was improving. Having gone through a stress fracture on my right leg a few years ago, I thought I knew what to look for. So I convinced myself that I must have just pulled a tendon/muscle around that area. I didn’t have any swelling like I had before so it was easy to dismiss. And after all, I had a marathon to train for and two most important training runs were up next. I needed to be able to run and prepare accordingly.
That following Saturday, thinking the planned 18 miles may be a stretch, I set out with the mindset to go as far as I could manage. Starting out felt okay, but with each step I felt a “minor ache”, but wasn’t overly concerned. However, as I went further my leg started “talking louder”. By mile 7, I determined, it was probably best to turn around and head for home. The initial few miles back were sheer pain, which meant quite a bit of walking. When I reached the trail we often run it seemed my leg was feeling a bit better. Being my typical stubborn self, I opted to take that longer route, purely to try to get in as many miles as I could. What was I thinking?
The trip back turned into 5 miles and I paid the price. Afterwards, it was painful even to walk or put any pressure on that foot. Lots of ice, elevation, and time to make that dreaded call to the doctor to figure things out.
Fortunately, I have a great Sports Med doctor who is also a runner. She ordered the standard x-ray and advised rest, and recommended that maybe I should defer the marathon. WHAT! Recognizing that without a concrete answer to why I shouldn’t run, and understanding that I was determined to still try to run as planned, she determined we needed to rule out a stress fracture before giving me the “continue at your own risk” advise. I scrambled to get a MRI ASAP, which luckily I did the next morning. Unfortunately, the MRI and the results revealed a grade 3 stress reaction – or a pre fracture and a calf strain along with finding out again that my Vitamin D levels were low. (I really need to soak up some more sunshine)
Even though I somewhat suspected it, I was absolutely heartbroken & devastated. I was devastated for two reasons; 1. After three months of training, early mornings, long runs and in the summer heat, everything was now on hold and I could no longer participate. 2. the complete lack of running I face for minimum of 6-8 weeks while it heals, is what depresses me the most. Having gone through this injury once before, I know it is a long process, and no other form of exercise gives me the same feeling. Running for me, is like breathing and the pure gratitude I feel after each run is joyous.
So here I am on my interrupted journey to marathon number two. I am able to defer my entry and be guaranteed for Chicago 2018, but it doesn’t replace the disappointment I feel, that my body refused to cooperate. I am hoping that though physical therapy, forcing myself to be more diligent with strength training and building up my vitamin levels again, that the weeks will go by quickly and I can lace up my trainers and put these feet in motion and still enjoy some autumn air.
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