I have yet to run my first miles of 2017.
After 5 months of repeatedly thinking that my foot was better enough to run again, and then painfully realizing that it wasn’t after days or weeks of slowly easing back into it, I decided as I rang in the New Year that the miles I run this year will be worth waiting for.
In August my foot began hurting. I rested for weeks and went to see two different chiropractors. It was getting a little better, but the pain was not going away. I wasn’t satisfied that I was on the right path.
In September I went to see a podiatrist and had an x-ray that came up clean. I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and prescribed rest, ice, heat and orthotics. I saw a physical therapist and began a routine of exercises given to me to help correct my imbalances. I joined a yoga studio and a gym and got myself in the pool. My coach gave me workouts to do while I rested my foot.
In October I tried running again, and started to think maybe I was on my way to getting better. But there was still a consistent pain all day, even if it were to a lesser degree. I went to see a new physical therapist and a sports orthopedist who is a Boston runner himself. I had an MRI which came back indicating plantar fasciitis, once again – no stress reactions, no fractures, no tears. After a few more weeks of rest, swimming and yoga, my foot was still hurting. On the last day of October I had a cortisone shot. This was a step I was totally fearful of, but my doctor felt that the condition warranted it. So I tried it.
In November, after two weeks of full rest and continuing with all the prescribed exercises and regular sessions with my physical therapist, one day I went out for a run and I fell down. I cut up my hand and knee and I sprained my ankle (same foot as arch/heel pain). I went in to see the orthopedist and he assured me that the sprain was mild and to rest it for a couple more weeks, but that after that I should begin training for Boston and just run through the pain of my arch/heel. He had plantar fasciitis for 9 months, he said. He just ran through it. He said he didn’t need to see me again.
In December, I tried running again. The pain in my foot had still not disappeared but my ankle felt stable thankfully. Of course, it was MUCH better but it wasn’t gone. I talked with my coach and he eased me back into running again. Time to train for Boston. At first it felt fine and I even had a couple weeks of close to 20 miles (total), but honestly I wasn’t really enjoying it. With every step I took, I could feel the pain in my foot and it was creating anxiety for me, all kinds of negative self-judgements and so, so much doubt. Am I not tough enough for this pain? Am I hurting myself and causing more damage to my body by running through it? Why did this happen? Will it ever go away? Is something more serious going on here?
Early that month I had been invited to a holiday potluck dinner for the local NC Oiselle volee team. A team I had joined just before moving here with high hopes that I would really get to know these women through running as we trained and raced together, sipped on coffee after our workouts and shared laughter and tears through it all. Only I haven’t been running. My foot was really hurting me that night, even just standing around, and I felt sad going to this dinner as some sort of wounded bird with a deformed, broken wing. I went anyway, despite the fact that my jeans wouldn’t button comfortably because of the weight I’ve gained. Despite the fact that I had no exciting stories to share related to running. Despite the fact that I was not training for a race or even able to run pain free at the moment. It turns out, spending the evening with these ladies was a really good thing for me. Many of them had their own stories to share about dealing with painful, lingering and frustrating injuries – injuries they got through. They welcomed me with open wings despite what is going on in my running life, and they offered encouraging thoughts and advice. They made me feel better. They gave me hope.
After that, I went to see Dr. Jason – a chiropractic and active release therapy doctor they recommended to me. I went to Virginia to visit my family after Christmas and had two appointments with Dr. Wong while I was in town. He watched me run which reproduced all of my pain and also gave him potentially valuable insights into how to help me heal. With the additional perspective from Dr. Wong’s recommendations, last week Dr. Jason and I sat down and talked it all through. There is a prominent and stubborn “lump” of tissue at the heel insertion of my medial arch. This could be scar tissue/a thickening of the plantar fascia, and will hopefully be worked out with regular treatments. We decided that I will see him twice a week for 4 weeks, all the while being devoted to my physical therapy work and NOT running or doing any activities that aggravate the pain. If after that aggressive approach the “lump” is not dispersing and I am still having pain with walking, then I am going to go see an orthopedist at Duke University on February 13th for a diagnostic ultrasound.
In order to truly heal, I realized that I had to let go of trying to run right now. That having the pressure of Boston looming over my head was making me feel sad and anxious. It wasn’t healthy, and it didn’t feel good. I never ran to feel sad or bad. Quite the opposite! I am all for pushing through discomfort and hanging on when things feel tough, for showing up to a really tough workout and getting it done. For working hard. But I am not hurting myself. I do not run through the pain of injury. I know I can. But it isn’t being true to myself if I do that. I won’t do it even if a doctor says it’s okay to.
I will find ways to move that feel good. Running will feel good again, I believe that. But I need to be in this moment. And for this moment, running doesn’t feel good.
Last week I joined a masters swimming class and went to a few cycle classes. I feel absolutely no pain when I do these activities. Sure, they are HARD. But they are hard the way running is hard when you’re not injured. I think that’s why I love them. It feels much better to focus on what I can do that doesn’t hurt, than to stay in limbo and to worry, or to force my running when it doesn’t feel right.
I’m not giving up.
But I am letting go.
I think I have had an epiphany.