As I type this, I know that I am a stronger person and runner now and hopefully my words will help someone understand the pain of having an injury. Please know that I am a firm believer that no matter how many people have been sidelined for an injury, and they will tell you they understand… THEY DON’T! No one deals with the psychological effects of a physical injury the same way, and I won’t be one of those people that tell you I understand what you are going through. I will share my story though, and tell you that at some point your mind heals and you will be able to be back at this crazy sport we all love!
For those that don’t know, I often make the joke that I make terrible life decisions. For the most part, I am actually quite methodical at the choices I make in life, career, and my finances, but when it comes to a friend asking me to run one more mile after I have already done more than I should, signing up for a race a week before because someone dared me to, or running too fast in an easy run because I am trying to impress someone, then count me in and I will make that terrible decision. That is exactly what I chose to do when I signed up for my first trail race and first 50K the Tuesday before the race that Saturday. It really was an incredible experience and I highly advise anyone who has never run farther than a marathon to do it. Marathons are hard, but I experienced strength in me that I never knew was there. The problem came shortly after the race, when I didn’t even take one day off to rest. So those decisions resulted in some of the worst pain I have ever experienced and the reality that my joke was now a reality and I had truly made a terrible life decision.
Shortly into the first hill at the Lexington Half two weeks later, I experienced the feeling of a rubber band snapping on the inside of my leg which ended up actually being my calf tearing. I immediately knew it was bad, and knew I physically could not go any farther. Having too much pride, I hobbled back to the start, even passing an emergency car that I probably could have gotten a ride in. I had several friends at this race that I knew I could cheer on when I got back to the start, but I made a stop by my car to collect myself, which was actually completely break down on the phone to my mom. After this complete breakdown and realization, I hobbled to the finish line to be a good friend and support them. I watched my training partner completely kill the half marathon and get a time that him and I dreamed of when we first started training together. I watched another friend get a new PR in the half on one of the hardest courses I have ever seen on a very cold day. I smiled in pictures with them, and tried to be so cheerful. When asked how I was feeling, I tried to play it off and say I was fine. I was even trying to walk normal. Looking at the pictures now, I can tell that my pain showed in how I was standing and on my face. We all know how hard it is to want to be so happy for your friends, but a bit jealous of their accomplishments.
After the race, I headed back to my hotel and my depression began. We went to eat, and immediately after I came back to the room and slept the rest of the night. The next day we drove back, and did the exact same thing when I got home. After finding out what I had really done, I still had a small hope that I could run the Country Music Marathon, but my doctor told me that the chances of me actually racing were gone.
When you are injured they tell you to take care of your body with food and drink, stretch and ice, and make sure to get plenty of sleep. Well, I didn’t! My depression was fading in and out, but in the mean time I was getting angry. So I did everything I could to not think about running, but in return knew I was gaining weight that would affect me even if I was able to run CMM. I wish I was one of those people that didn’t eat when they were angry, but I am definitely not. The more I got mad at myself for eating bad, the more bad things I put into my body which did not help in the recovery process. A week before the marathon, I was cleared to run but not rolling up on my toes or any big hills. I found that I could run at a 7:30 pace without rolling up on my toes, so I did the math and realized I could run that and still try to get close to BQ time at the marathon. That would have been great except for my unhealthy habits for the past month didn’t even put me in a great position to do that, but I knew I could. I made sure to tell everyone I knew my new goal for the race, because I didn’t want expectations.
It was a very emotional morning walking to the start of the race because it was much different than I had originally imagined the day going. The gun went off, and for the first two miles it was like I forgot that I tore my calf two months prior. I was feeling great and waving and smiling at everyone, and then it all unraveled. While heading into Metro Center, I began to realize I was probably dehydrated. Then about mile 13.8, my calf cramped up and I thought I had just torn it again. I mentally shut down, and walked back to where I could officially drop out. I let myself cry a few minutes and then saw some really good friends whose smiles made me remember why I had run anyways. This day ended much differently than Lexington though. This time I was even able to really cheer and be happy for my friends. That evening I even forced myself to go to a party to celebrate the runners. After analysis of the race, I realized that I probably just cramped because of dehydration, but it freaked me out because it was so early in the race and was the same calf.
I am hoping that I have now run into anyone who knew I was trying to race Country Music, and that I don’t have to hold my head in shame that I was unable to accomplish this goal. I am now looking to the future though, and know I will make much smarter decisions with my training. I also know that I can get through an injury and will come back stronger. I am running daily again, and it is definitely not the amount of miles, or nearly as fast as what I was putting in prior to my injury, but they are HEALTHY and HAPPY MILES!