When I began running in the spring of 2010, I had no idea of the future impact it would have on my life. At that time, I was determined to eat well, exercise, and drink tons of water in efforts to lose the weight I had put on through undergrad, the first two years of marriage, and grad school. I ran cross country for a few years in middle and high school, but had lost my fervor for it once I became involved with choir, musical theater and professional voice lessons my freshman year. So, getting back into running for me over 10 years later wasn’t exactly easy, but I was intent to keep at it because I knew it would help me shed the pounds and that I’d feel great just running any length of time and distance.
As I began running that spring, I lost an average of one pound per week, and was feeling confident and better about how I looked and felt, inside and out. From January to October 2010, I succeeded in losing a total of 40 pounds. Typing that (and saying that out-loud) even now sounds so weird. That’s the weight of a child. Crazy and amazing at the same time.
Running for me became so much more than an activity for the purpose of losing weight. It became a way to maintain health and wellness, and ultimately a therapeutic passion. Running on the open road, whether alone or with fellow runners, in the city and out in the country, made me feel empowered, invincible, and strong – like if I could run this long distance, then I could do anything. The sky was the limit. Nothing was impossible.
From 2010 to the spring of 2013, I worked my way up to running well over 20 miles per week and had managed to run numerous 5Ks, a 7K, 10Ks, and five half-marathons, accumulating various medals and achieving personal records I never thought possible – like winning a 5K and running 13.1 miles in 1 hour and 47 minutes. (If you would have told me I’d ever do these things in my life when I first began this journey, I would have laughed in your face. Seriously.)
The week following my fifth half-marathon in the spring of 2013, I went out before work on a routine training run, four miles around our country block. I was in the home-stretch when all of a sudden I felt this terrible sharp, stinging pain in my left ankle. I literally shouted out in pain and stopped. And with no cell phone on me of course, I limped the last mile home, the whole time cursing under my breath at the pain and stupidity of this, not understanding what was going on. Never before had I had anything like this happen, and I certainly was not going to let anything stop me from doing what I love. (Yea, I know, I may or may not be a little stubborn and bull-headed when it comes to my priorities.)
Later that week, I was seeing a doctor explaining my issue and getting X-rays, which revealed nothing. He diagnosed me with a bad case of tendonitis, a common problem resulting from overuse and told me to not run for six weeks, come back following the break, and then we would go from there. So I took his advice and didn’t run, and remarkably, started feeling much better. Six weeks later, I was back in the office with no symptoms, and he told me I was free to run again, easing back into it of course, and listening to my body if I experienced any discomfort.
It wasn’t long before I was running just a couple of miles, working my way back up, when the pain came on again, but this time even more severe. I felt sick to my stomach. I knew in my gut that something was not right, and I had to stop running for good and get back into the doctor immediately. So, there I was again, this time with an MRI being ordered. And lo and behold, the results showed I had a very clear stress fracture stretching the entire diagonal length of my heel on the left side. Lovely. The plan? Wear a big boot for eight weeks, don’t walk or run, and go back to see the doctor.
So I did just that. And the pain was still present after eight weeks. Sigh.
So the last plan of action was a full cast and crutches for another eight weeks. I made it about six weeks in the cast, when on my birthday of all days, it got wet in the shower from my cast protector getting a hole in it and had to come off early. (That was a fun day. NOT.)
Even after taking all of that time to rest my foot, it was still in horrible pain. To stand and walk felt like I had stepped on a nail and it was stuck in the bottom of my foot. I was devastated at the time that I had spent trying to get healed and feeling like it had all been for nothing. At that point I was no longer interested in this particular doctor’s treatment ideas, and therefore sought out a new doctor, this time an Orthopedic Surgeon. Let’s just say, this was the best decision I ever made. I wish I had gone to him sooner.
I’ve been with him since the late fall of 2013 and although it’s been a long journey, he has by far been the best person to work with on this issue. He explained to me how challenging stress fractures are on their own, but that the heel poses another issue because of the hardness and denseness of the bone. It takes a long time to heal and is known for getting better, then feeling worse, getting better, then feeling worse. Part of the healing and strengthening process will involve going hard followed by periods of rest. Not something us runners like to do, but a necessary something if we want to overcome this injury.
It’s now February 2015 and although I am still very much in recovery, I am beginning to work my way back to regular running. It feels incredible! To get on the treadmill at the gym, after months of riding a bike and lifting weights, is a breath of fresh air. I start slow, a walk at first. And then I gradually increase my speed until I get into my sweet spot and I go for as long as I can; and at the feeling or sense of any tenderness or soreness, I then back off to a walking pace. Following this, I stretch, hydrate, and then rest and tell myself, “You did it. Good job.” And then I do it again. Three times per week. Two short workouts on the Tuesday and Thursday, and a long workout on Saturday.
For the first time in a long time, I’m feeling excited about the sport I love and have missed so much. I feel hopeful that I will indeed run again and get back to training and racing again in the future. And I feel grateful for the ability to even run a mile or two (versus the four to six I would do on an average training run). Right now, it’s all about appreciating this physical gift God has given me and enjoying every opportunity I have to get out there and do it.
There is no doubt that running very much became an idol to me. As great as the sport is and as much as I love it, I often put this above anything else and made it my god versus giving God the proper place in my life. In not being able to run, I’ve had to find other ways of getting my exercise in, and I have come to really enjoy spinning, yoga, and more recently this contraption called the ARC trainer which will kick your butt and make you sweat like you wouldn’t even believe. Using that machine makes me hurt all over, but in a good way. LOL.
In taking my focus off of running, God also has enabled me to develop in my other gifts and passions – like revamping this beloved blog space, writing / publishing my eBook, and connecting with other creatives who share my heart for faith, inspiration, leadership, and serving. I’m so thankful for the Influence Network and the women I have been introduced to who spur me on to go after my dreams and accomplish the mission and purpose God has for my life.
I can now look back at the past 20 months of dealing with this challenge, and see God’s hand over all of the ups and downs that come with both the injury itself and the recovery process. While I believe God will allow me to run again, my heart toward the sport has changed. I still love it. It’s still a passion of mine and fires me up. But it’s not my everything. It’s simply a means to living a balanced, fit, healthy, and whole life in Him. It’s truly a gift. And for the time that He has given me to do this, no matter how short or long the distance, or how slow or fast the speed, I am going to honor Him in this and praise Him for it all.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV