Allow me to set the scene. You’re running along quite nicely, training hard and surprising yourself by smashing targets left, right and centre. The ultimate runner’s high. Your confidence grows with each run, you feel invincible. The PB attempt is ON.
Then, without warning, BAM! Suddenly you’re spending your Sunday mourning the loss of the long run you’ve loved to moan about every weekend for the last 3 months. We’ve all been there, right? And let’s face it, being injured is miserable.
Recently I was diagnosed with the early stages of a femoral stress fracture and was told strictly no running for at least 4 weeks. With Edinburgh marathon only 3 months away, I had a complete John McEnroe moment…. ‘You cannot be serious!’ It got me thinking about how, as runners, we cope with injury. Or don’t cope, as is often the case! With any sort of loss there is a grieving process that can usually be split into five clear stages. Mine went something like this…
“Of course it’s fine that I can’t sit on a desk chair where my leg is unsupported. I like to stand at work anyway. I’m a runner, aches and pains are normal, I’m just training hard. I’ll have a rest day on Friday and then It’ll be fine.”
“I just need to increase my protein intake, clearly I’m not recovering well enough in between runs.” *chugs yet another protein shake to no effect*
Religiously foam rollers a stress fracture, even though it is quite clearly making it more painful, because it’s ‘only a muscle strain’.
These are all genuine thoughts and actions of a reasonably educated (and sane?) person!
“Why me? Everyone else is allowed to run. Edinburgh marathon is less than 3 months away. It’s not fair.” (This stage is definitely exacerbated by my life-long persecution complex!!)
Throws running shoes back on the shelf as if they are to blame.
“If I work really hard at the gym and cross train, I’m sure I’ll be back running in a fortnight.”
Spends £120 on new running shoes in an effort to tempt the troublesome femur into healing more quickly, as if it’s in control of the decision.
“Okay, if I can just run a PB in Edinburgh, I’ll take a month off afterwards. Fine then, forget the PB. If I can just run Edinburgh then I promise I’ll take a month off anyway. That’s my final offer.”
Can’t even bring self to charge Garmin when it totally runs out of battery for the first time in it’s long, four year history. Then spontaneously bursts into tears to mark the occasion. Brilliant!
The realisation that without running, having a second breakfast is no longer justifiable.
Who even am I if I’m not ‘Hannah the runner’??
I’ll let you know when I get there!
This may all seem very dramatic, but I can sum up my approach to running in one word. INVESTMENT. I don’t mean financially, although the £61.50 entry fee (that I am unable to defer or swap to the half- thanks Edinburgh Marathon Festival) does grate on me. No, I mean the emotional investment. Being a runner requires sacrifice, discomfort, self motivation, persistence.
We give our heart and sole to running, go through ups and downs, plan a future and dare to dream about realising the aspirations we have. It’s a partnership. So when that bond of trust is broken by injury, the sense of loss is not just for the physical action of running. No. It’s for the shattered hopes, the unrealised ambitions, the fruitless blood, sweat and tears, 6am wake ups and icy, dark mornings. THE INVESTMENT. And that’s why it really hurts. So wallow, throw a strop, make sure everyone knows how miserable you are. But then, pull yourself together, form a plan and knuckle down to some rehab. Because us runners, we’re a resilient lot. And we will be back, and we WILL be stronger because of it.
I’d love to know how you cope with injury in the comments. And any tips will be very greatly appreciated!!