Runners Suck at Being Injured

We runners make terrible patients. We do. It’s because we have no patience. One of the main things I tell my clients is always “You have to be patient. [Condition xyz] didn’t come about overnight, and it won’t be fixed overnight.” But just because I say it doesn’t mean I’m good at doing it.

This annoying plantar fascia irritation started probably around the first of the year. Yep, you read that right. Five months ago. When did I first seek help? Weeeeell….sometime around late March? That’s the other thing about us runners: we ignore pain. We run through pain. Sometimes the pain feels better while running, so then we tell ourselves “hey, this must mean run more! It feels better!” It’s never until the pain interferes with our running (gasp!) that we finally admit that we might be injured and need to take a step back.

My pain is in my right foot and started as a basic irritation after long runs, likely as an overtraining over time injury. I’d get 10+ miles in and feel fine, but a few hours later the sole of my foot was burning and I was hobbling. I’d stretch, it would get better, I’d go run again. And repeat and repeat. Then in February I sprained my ankle at a race (and got my very first “did not finish” – oof!). I saw my PT who did a bunch of manual therapy and got me moving again pretty quickly – maybe too quickly. The soft tissue wasn’t as happy as we thought it was. The ankle was tight and what started as intermittent plantar flare-ups turned into a really angry right foot. So that’s been going on for almost 3 months now. It is super frustrating.

There were lots of home remedies, more manual therapy from the PT, modifying and/or shortening runs (blah!), accepting that my foot would from now on just burn after running…Were these the stages of runner’s grief? (Is that not a thing? If not, I’m totally coining that term.)

I knew time off would help things along, but let’s be real here. Taking 4-6 weeks completely off from running wasn’t going to happen – unless I absolutely had to do it.

So I’ve been seeing a different physical therapist for the past month. He’s an osteopractic physical therapist (translation: more training and more tools in his tool belt) and has been doing dry needling on my foot and calf. If you want more insight into what that’s all about, click here.

But back to my patience thing: I’m getting so antsy! I have skipped several runs to allow the tissue to calm down. I have modified run intensity and shortened runs significantly. I have a 15-miler on my training plan tomorrow – and I will end up either skipping the run all together, or doing no more than 7 miles. (Boo.) I’m being good and choosing to shorten/skip these runs. Even though the PT strongly suggested that any reduction in intensity and frequency of running would definitely help during the healing process, he never once said “stop running” or “run less.” I appreciate him for that. He knows how our kind work.

Runners are generally really good at following instructions. If a coach gives us a 16-week training plan to get ready for a marathon, we follow it to the letter. If the same coach told us that standing on our heads while reading poetry and balancing a pineapple on our feet will improve our performance, we’d do that, too. What we really suck at, though, is having no concrete timeline for injury recovery. We suck at not knowing when we will be able to run normally again. We want to stick to our training plans – and I’ve had to accept that my spring training plan/goals are just not within reach right now. I’ve had to scrap my plans for now.

So there are moments of “this sucks” and “why me” and some legit jealousy when I drive past runners on the road…sniff. But I also know that things are improving and my foot feels better with each dry needling session. I’m trying hard to just focus on the process and put my training goals out of my mind for now. There will always be another race and another training plan. 

Who knows, maybe this whole thing will teach me how to be a calmer, more patient person? Nah! 


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