For as much running as I’ve done over the past two years, I consider myself pretty lucky that I have only suffered a few injuries. I must give a quick shout out to the universe: this is not a challenging comment – I’m extremely grateful. 🙂
My first winter running (2010) was spent watching The Weather Channel regularly, waiting in desperation for 30+ degree weather for outside runs. At the time, I had mistakenly believed I would make myself more susceptible to illness if I ran in colder temperatures, so I took my runs to the dreaded treadmill (aka dreadmill). While I’ve always enjoyed walking on my treadmill, running has never been pleasant for me. So, anytime the temperatures would spike above 30 degrees, I was outdoors in a flash.
One day I was so determined to get fresh air that, when I stopped at the nearby high school track only to find it covered with two inches of snow, I still ran on it. I told myself I would try one lap first to see how it went. I began to run/trudge through all the wet snow, instantly soaking my feet and pants bottoms. After one lap, I told myself I may as well do at least a mile. The cold wind hitting my face and hair felt very refreshing, and while it was a challenge to stay upright, it quickly became a game of trying to stay inside the footsteps I had made on the previous lap. I pressed on with my usual driving thoughts of “You’ve come this far, so you may as well keep going to…” A mile turned to three, all the while slipping, sliding, and nearly busting it several times. It was actually a lot of fun until I dropped my car key in the deep snow, spending an additional 20 minutes in search of my ticket home.
A month later, I was stricken with a bout of pneumonia and violent coughing that led to fractured ribs, which took me out for over a month. Not only was it a physically painful experience, I found my spirit dwindling as well. Oh, how I longed for that freedom when my legs would once again sail down the road, pounding pavement along the way. Eventually the doctor cleared me to run again, and when I got back out there, while slow and painful, it was exactly what I needed.
I realized my temperature watch hadn’t helped me after all, and have since abandoned that 30-degree rule. There is no weather, outside of lightning, that deters me from taking my run outdoors. Some of my best runs have been in the below freezing cold, snow, and ice, as shared in my experiences as a Snow Monster.
A hip injury in the summer of 2011 left me immobile for eight days. What’s that? Only eight? It was a very lonnnnnng eight days, but looking back, I realize how lucky I am. I was never able to pinpoint how I sustained this injury. One day, as I began a standard three-mile run, I felt a tearing sensation in the muscle connecting my leg to my hip. I tried to push through the pain until I was literally dragging my left leg behind me, and had to stop after only a quarter mile. After a lot of patient (and not so patient) resting, icing, stretching, strengthening, and ibuprofen, I got back out there. I started with very slow runs for another week, and although nervous at first, I picked up my usual speed and went with it.
In My First Marathon (coming soon), I sustained a knee injury that kept me out of the running game for several weeks. While it seriously affected my race performance, it didn’t take away from one of the greatest experiences of my life. I wasn’t so upset about resting this time around because I knew it was coming, and after months of intensive training, I was ready to rest anyway. Your body is put through so much that it takes at least a month to recover completely following a marathon.
A few weeks later, with my still-weakened immune system, I got slammed with illness. Beginning with strep throat, I ended up spending nearly a month battling a lineup of bronchitis, severe coughing that bruised my ribs (better than fractured, though ;-)), the flu, and horrifically painful canker sores in my throat and mouth. Swallowing was so painful I would choke, making it difficult to breathe, leading to serious food and sleep deprivation, delirium, and of course, many tears of misery and self-pity. To add insult to injury, those tears turned to pink eyes (yes, double pink eye). Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to me. I will never take the simple things for granted again (like pain-free eating and drinking, or simple swallowing).
I love this picture because it was taken when I was just starting to feel good enough to have my first meal after nearly two weeks of starvation…err, limited food choices (aka liquid/tasteless food). Hellllooooo Red Lobster!
In January, when I finally got back out there for a three-mile run, my heart was pounding so hard I could have sworn it was going to fly right out of my chest. Even though deep down I knew better, I felt so discouraged and weak, as if I would never feel right again. It took a lot of reminding myself that I would certainly be encouraging anyone else in my predicament that it would get better, so it was time to turn my words onto myself. Practice what I preach, if you will. Of course, it did get better, and before I knew it, I was alive and strong again, training for my second marathon. I am happy to report I’ve been healthy as can be minus a minor head cold earlier this month. I’m praying for the same following my next marathon. 🙂
I try to think of my injuries as a major hill in my running. Just a temporary obstacle to surpass, and then we can get on with it. I’ve learned to listen to my body more, and determine the difference between pain that is normal, and pain that is screaming “stop before you rip/tear/damage something.” A rule of thumb I use is “if it’s altering your form in any way, stop.” It’s worked great so far, and I’ve only strayed from it once in one of the most challenging moments of my life. My First Marathon.