Mid-August 2014, I tore my hamstring and calf on a long training run for my first ever half marathon. As tears go, it could have been worse, but what that injury would uncover would change my life. I thought I’d start this new little space on the interwebs to talk about running and how coming back from injury is sometimes not as straightforward as doing your physio exercises. This space is really an outlet for me to write and to share where my head is at these days.
But first, here’s the injury story in as few words as possible:
I’ve had hip pain since I was a kid. After complaining to doctors about it and having it brushed off, I assumed that everyone lived in pain and we all just got on with it. So I did.
In 2012, I taught myself to run 5km. When I started I couldn’t run 1min without huffing and puffing, but over 10 weeks, it became easier and at 12 weeks I ran my first fun run. I got a PR that day and I felt proud. Then someone on the internet told me that it was a time I should be disappointed by and being so new to running and so discouraged I didn’t run again for about a year. [Note: don’t do this to new runners, any time is a good time]
In 2013, I started to run again. I was heavier, but I really wanted to run. The hip pain was always there, but it seemed normal to me at the time. I got up to about 8km before I got discouraged by hardcore runners making fun of slow runners again. But by the end of the year I had found a group of women online who wanted to run for the fun of it. I found my true love of running and planned races and bought fancy gear. It was ace. I signed up for a 15km fun run.
April 2014, 2 weeks out from the 15km fun run my hip started to ache more than I could ignore anymore. I saw a physio who said I was fine to run the race. It was an unexpectedly hot race day. It had rained all week and suddenly got hot about 15 minutes into the race. Annoying but ok. Then my hip gave out at the 6km mark. I hobbled the rest of the course to the finish line. It wasn’t fun but I finished.
I took some time off and my hip seemed to go back to my “normal” so I signed up for a half marathon. So many people did. Training got off to a shaky start with a couple of trips to the hospital for an unrelated illness. But I loved running more than ever. I was committed to making this half marathon mine. Then came the tear.
I cried as I ran home through the pain. I booked in to see a different physio and whilst the tear healed, she wanted to get to the bottom of my sore hip and fix that. No running. Half marathon cancelled. So many strength exercises. I even joined a crossfit gym to learn how to lift and strengthen my muscles safely. Four months after starting physio I was allowed to do a test run/walk. It was December, 2o14.
Things seemed to be improving. I was allowed to do more run/walks and I set a ridiculous goal of running a marathon by the end of 2015. It was nuts. But I thought it was the motivation I needed to do all the recovery and rehab. Then I rolled my ankle on a run and it wouldn’t heal. Every time I thought it was ready for a test run I’d roll it again. 5 times in 4 months. Rocktape and I became close friends. In the mean time I had both an x-ray and an MRI on my hip. No surgery needed, but strengthening exercises from the physio were a must.
Then almost a year ago, my ankle was doing great on a test run but my other calf was a little tight. I stretched it out. I followed the info I’d seen on running websites for a niggle: run it loose. So I ran another 200m and it made an afwul popping sound and I limped home so slowly that my garmin didn’t register me as moving. I’d torn my calf in 2 places.
My marathon dreams were in tatters. Off the table completely. My body was screaming at me to stop running and give it proper time to heal. So, I committed to getting strong and leaving running behind until my hip and legs were stronger than ever.
I quit crossfit and joined a gym and did (and continue to do) all my physio exercises. My focus for the last year has been to come back from all these injury woes and have running back for good. It’s not about time or even distance for me any more. It’s about the freedom that running brings. That feeling like you’re flying. I’m ready to start running again. I gave myself a mantra to remember as I move forward: strong legs, happy heart.
Hopefully it’s not too long now until I have it back. I’m working towards it, day by day.