My running "whys," like so many other runners, are infinite.
It comes down to this: the runner's high is REAL.
The high makes the runner, at any pace, feel alive, happy and free.
When injury happens, it squashes all those happy feelings.
How do we cope with the loss of running?
I fractured my heel on Oct. 31, 2018, after a slow and easy three-mile stroller run with my one-and-a-half year old son, followed by an hour of holding, bouncing and swaying him to sleep in bare feet upon hardwood floors.
It doesn't seem like an incident where a bone would break.
Heel pain surfaced immediately after lying him down. The pain was enough to bring me to my knees - I had to crawl out of the room and later padded the bottom of my foot with gauze in order to teach an hour-long yoga class and then take my boys trick or treating.
I merely thought I had aggravated the plantar fascia to the ultimate degree. I knew that pain, because I had a heel spur in my opposite foot from 2013-14, and some days during that injury, I simply could not walk.
With my left foot searing, throbbing and tingling with sharp pain, I knew what I had to do - I had healed plantar fascia before.
Yet, after two months of no relief, even after I quit running altogether and began cross training, I got an X-ray.
It revealed a fracture penetrating through a heel spur on the bottom inner part of the foot, the calcaneus bone.
Yikes! How could I have earned podium ranking in nine races, including a trail marathon and 50K, in 12 months, between August 2017 and August 2018, completely injury-free? And now, when running 10-20 low intensity miles a week, with zero races scheduled, I break a BONE?! (Later, I found out my left hip/sacral area was misaligned, causing undue pressure and torque with each foot strike).
Sadness - I missed the woods and my all-female trail running group, the Trail Run Tribe.
I reconciled my feelings by telling myself that bodies are meant to break down, lots of non-runners get hurt, and I am not alone.
I stopped berating myself, embraced the injury and delved into what it could be telling me.
After all, injuries are our teachers.
This one has taught me that the body is delicate even when it's not training for 50Ks; there are other really awesome cardio sports where I could find my flow (see below); and the power of positive thinking will prevail.
Here is the Gratitude List I made on a really low day during the injury, as a way to see the sunny side of my two-month hiatus from running:
1. Library Card - I LOVE our library cards! Reading positive-thinking books by runners, such as Let Your Mind Run by Deena Castor, mentally strengthened me and kept me connected to my beloved sport. I was so happy to take Avie, my five-year-old son, and Grey, my one-and-a-half-year-old, to the library to search for books and play while I paged through my latest find.
2. Swimming - I began to swim laps at the YMCA where I teach yoga. It felt SO GOOD to do something that completely took weight off of my foot. First, I started with pool running with an aquabelt and swimming 18 pool lengths, or 1/8 mile. Then I built up to 1/4 mile, 36 laps. Soon, I was swimming half a mile at 54 laps, which quickly built to 72 laps, one mile. I peaked at 100 laps and swam three to four days per week, always with a "long swim" of 50-70 minutes. Now, swimming is part of my cross-training and weekly routine. It gives me that "runner's high" feeling, and it helped maintain, and perhaps improve, my cardiovascular fitness while I was unable to run. Even more, I hope to compete in my first triathlon later this year :)
3. Strength and interval training - After giving birth to my second son, Grey, in 2017, life just got busier. With two kiddos and both of us working, some things were forgotten, such as lifting weights, something I've done since I was 13 years old. With my new role as mother of two, I preferred my alone time in the woods, but I know how beneficial strength training is for bone density and stability of the joints. When the foot pain was too intense to add weight bearing activities, I lifted dumbbells by standing on my knees and added lots of core exercises along with heart-pumping sequences like mountain climbers. Now, with the fracture mended, weight lifting has become a solid part of my routine, something that I do post-run or before the boys wake up in the morning. Bonus: the recti diastasis (abdominal separation) that occurred after having baby number two is gone!
4. Yoga - the breathing and relaxation kept me from freaking out and crying (well, maybe I cried a couple times) as I longed to dance along the roots and rocks on a narrow wooded path. Trail running is my jam! But yoga reminds me to be fully present and patient and to appreciate rest and recovery. So many of the standard poses, such as lunges and one-legged poses, aggravate the plantar fascia and heel. Yet, through injury, ingenuity sets in, and we can create nearly any modification and still complete a full vinyasa yoga practice.
5. Free time - With no big race (as in marathon or 50K) on the schedule until the fracture mended and the orthopedic doctor released me, we had so much free time to complete house projects and go on family adventures, and I had free time to write and read, two hobbies I do very little of when training peaks.
Gratitude lists are something I've been doing since my early 20s, and I like to come back to them during difficult times.
Those times are over, now, with my heel healed. I began run/hiking in February and am now running the trails again :)
I hope this posts uplifts injured runners - you are never alone, and you will persevere!