I have been injured before. In high school, I dealt with shin splints playing soccer and later as a casual runner. There have been times when I have had to take a week off from running because something was hurting when I ran. I practically know my orthopedist on a first name basis. But my latest injury has been the most devastating I’ve ever had.
Runners can be stubborn, and I am no different. We tend to test out limits – not just with speed or distance, but also with tolerance of pain. We want to see if it goes away while running and if it does, we tend to ignore it. This has been my philosophy. The problem is, when should we stop running if the pain is not going away?
My stubbornness and unwise moves has led to my worse injury yet, with 6 weeks missed in running, as well as missing my first marathon. I am posting my story to maybe help someone else avoid the same mistakes I’ve made.
So what happened? I probably made at least a few mistakes. One was while I was training for my marathon, I ramped up my long runs too quickly over a few weeks. Second, I purchased a new pair of running shoes like my old shoes, except extra wide. It turns out they were too wide. I went out in these new shoes and ran 10 miles without any issues, but the next day, my knee hurt. That was odd. So I took Advil and the pain was gone. Two days later, I ran 3 miles on the treadmill and this time I felt the pain during the run. Ut oh. A couple days later, it was speedwork day, 4 miler. The pain was there again, but this time it was more prominent. This should have been the point where it’s time to say “time out.” Something is not right.
But that’s not what I did. Instead I took 3 days off before my first ever 20 mile run. In the back of my mind, I was worried about the knee pain, but I met up with a friend, and we proceeded to run. Around mile 1.8 I started to feel that pain as in previous runs, but it was tolerable, so I kept going. By mile 3, the pain was getting worse. It’s the body’s way of saying, “You idiot! Stop what you’re doing now!” Runners are stubborn, and I thought over 20 miles it would likely go away at some point. It did not. By mile 5 the pain was getting intense. Every other step was hurting badly. But I kept going. By mile 7, my leg was now buckling and giving out, along with pain shooting down my leg. That probably means, more damage is being done. I could no longer run. I told my friend to keep going, and I would walk back to the car that was about 3.5 miles away. Even walking hurt now. Ever the optimist, I began to jog again, only to be stopped again by excruciating pain, so then I would walk. This pattern repeated all the way to 11 miles. This was my biggest most significant mistake. I have not run more than a half mile since then.
My road to recovery has involved physical therapy, an MRI, and a cortisone shot. The MRI showed chondromalacia and the orthopedist also suspected the IT band is involved as well. In future posts, I will have more thoughts about this and my recovery.