I feel like the title to this post might sound a bit more dramatic than intended – this is not going to be a “doom and gloom” post! However, since I’ve now been injured/ recovering from injury for 3.5 months, I thought I’d write about my experience with it. On top of that, I wanted to share a few tips on dealing with injury as well as what helps/ what doesn’t.
Firstly, I thought I’d rewind a bit in case some of you were unaware that I was injured. Mid-October 2019, I went to a podiatrist after having foot pain for about 4-5 weeks. Since it hadn’t been that severe, nor had it bothered me (much) while running, I didn’t think it was anything serious. Hence why I waited so long to see someone. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture to my second metatarsal on my left foot. After going to the GP, I was referred for an X-ray (which never does much for stress fractures anyway) and the results were inconclusive. However, I was later referred to see a foot specialist and they re-examined my X-ray. According to them, there were signs of bone regrowth at the site of pain, an indicator that there had been a fracture.
Either way though, I had all the symptoms of a stress fracture (morning pain, worse when walking/ numbed when running, sore when touched by a vibrating tuning fork, tender spot etc) so it probably was one. It doesn’t really matter though, because at the end of the day I needed to stop running to let it recover.
I also had a bone density scan (paid for privately) because this then made me paranoid. The results showed that I do in fact have low bone density, which was to be expected given my history with an eating disorder and amenhorrea, but it still hit me hard. It just made me realise how everything has added up in my life to now make me an injury-prone and weaker runner. However, it’s not all negative; I have until I’m 25 to rebuild my bone density and counteract this early thinning of the bones. Definitely an extra kick of motivation!
To be honest, one of the hardest parts about being injured has been missing out on all the races. When I first got diagnosed, I was told I would only need 10-15 days off running because my foot had already started the healing process. Obviously this was wrong, and it has taken me much longer to get back running. Because of this, I initially planned on still having a cross country season and being able to race in the national relays, braids, BUCS and the Brighton Half Marathon (next weekend).
As each race approached, I would slowly realise that my goal to run would be unfulfilled. And each time it was a bit of a blow, because I had set my heart on racing them. Now, with a much more relaxed approach to racing, I’m not putting my body under any pressure to race before it’s ready. As a result, I’m less upset or affected by missing races – because I had never planned in my mind to do them.
Ah, cue the age-old saying: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Such a cliché but it’s accompanied by so much truth! In January, after a month of run-walking and finally embarking on continuous (albeit short) runs, I couldn’t help comparing to others. Especially those coming back from injury like me. It was all too easy to look at their strava and see that they were on longer/ faster running than me and get despondent. However, it’s so important to remember that no two injury journeys are the same. Just focus on yourself and listen to what YOUR body is telling you. Don’t risk re-injuring yourself because you try to progress at the same pace as someone else! A handy tip would be to delete/ de-activate strava for a bit if you find that toxic to your mentality.
As my running has progressed and I’ve gradually increased my continuous runs (currently up to 50 minutes), my paranoia has also increased. I swear that every day I think I have a new injury. Last week alone I went through: a shin stress fracture (I had a bruise… from walking into my bed frame), plantar fasciitis (my arch was sore – from wearing heels), a medial malleolar stress fracture (same situation) and sesamoiditis (it was just a blister). Because of my bone density, I’m just so worried that I’ll get injured again. And after having the taste of running, it would be so cruel.
Although being this paranoid is exhausting, it does mean that I’m erring on the side of caution and taking things extra slow. Hopefully, it’s at least teaching me to be sensible! As a general rule, if I’m questioning whether I should run because of a niggle (imaginary or otherwise), I’ll skip it and swim/ bike/ rest instead. Better safe than sorry!
One of the positives of injury is that it really does make you reassess your life. More specifically, though, it makes you grateful for what you do have/ what’s going well in your life at that moment in time. Despite my injury, everything else last semester was great and I had a fab time regardless of whether I was running or not. A break from the sport has made me all the more excited to be back (for good this time?!? hopefully I’m not jinxing it right now…). And when I am running, I always try to remind myself to be grateful for it. Even if the comeback is hard. Because, at the end of the day, I chose running for a reason; I don’t want to give up and switch to swimming, no matter how much I’ve improved! Maybe I will give a triathlon a go though… just for fun 😉
And that’s it from me! I hope you enjoyed this slightly different post from me – and sorry for the delay in blogging. The first few weeks back have been hectic, and I can’t believe I’m basically halfway through semester 2! I’m off to Copenhagen this evening for a few days as next week is reading week.