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The Day The Running Stopped

Me, a stress fracture and an aircast boot.

Me, a stress fracture and an aircast boot.

I truly never appreciated being able to run until I couldn’t do it. I loved running but I took it as a given. Other than the twisted ankle, slight pull or tight IT band I hadn’t suffered a real injury.

This year has been a lesson in understanding the frailty of my body and the discipline it takes not only to get my fitness back but the patience you need in order to do so too.

Without any experience of real injury I assumed my slightly bruised and sore outer ankle was as a result of a knock or bump and ran a half marathon on it. Most runners will tell you that they run on a niggle and is usually sorts itself out during the run, the kind of niggle that presents itself on or just before race day is often psychosomatic – the manifestation of pre race nerves. By mile 6 I knew my ankle was hurting more, not less and this wasn’t a phantom pain brought on by expectation of the event. Sure enough, by mile 9 I was limping heavily as I ran. I told my Dad, who I was running with to run on as I was slowing significantly and ran / walked for the next 3 miles. But just before the last mile on a downhill stretch the pain became too great and I dragged my left foot the last mile like Quasimodo, taking almost 20 minutes to complete that home stretch. When I got home I went through the usual Ice, Compression, Elevation routine but I knew it wasn’t going to be that simple. The next day at 7am I got a cab to A&E. It took two weeks on crutches, X-Rays and CT scans to finally diagnose a stress fracture of my tibia just above the ankle.

It’s been four months since that day and, whilst the pain is no longer there, I’m still not running again. I’ve tried the odd jog of a minute or so and one 10 minute session on the treadmill but otherwise I’ve become expert at researching on the internet what I CAN do in the gym and tried to forget about what I can’t do. To begin with I concentrated on weights – sitting down or kneeling and working on my upper body. Then I progressed to kettle bell swings with a low weight to try and get that cardio feeling back, shallow squats and later the stair master when the boot could come off for a few hours a day (going up stairs was no problem…down was another matter entirely). Once the aircast boot came off altogether I added in HIIT on the cross trainer and walking on a steep gradient on the treadmill and in the last three weeks I started squatting with weights on the smith machine and working my legs with free weights and the machines in the gym. Whereas before I only used one or two areas of the gym I can now say I use the entire gym…even the free weights room that is usually the preserve of the guys.

I can’t pretend I haven’t been mightily pissed off at times – I get jealous when I see people running outdoors and I really miss Crossfit, especially the social side of having people to work out with. On the plus side however I have begun to understand so much more about fitness training as I had to seek out exercises I could do. I have discovered a weird admiration for the stair master and my arms are definitely more defined than they were back in the beginning of April when they took a back seat to running ¬†and running and more running. I can’t work out to the same intensity these days and I’m longing for and dreading my first proper run because what if I get injured again? After this experience I think that fear will always be in the back of my mind, but maybe it’s a good thing and will stop this ever happening again. Here’s to hoping!