As millions of children have found out whether they made the Naughty or Nice list this year, I have found myself on another list: the Injured List.
As runners everywhere go deep into their training for Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend in January, Disneyland’s Tinkerbell Half-Marathon later that same month and Disney’s Princess Half-Marathon in February, there are many tales of woe and injury on the training boards. ‘Tis the season!
Until now, I have been very lucky in my training. I lost only one week back in May due to a strained hip flexor which was easily healed with a little rest, ice, heat, foam rolling and stretching.
But over the summer as I started to hit some higher mileage runs, I noticed a dull ache on the ball of my right foot. It came and went. I could run 21K without a problem, while other times I would feel that dull pain on a 16 or 18K run. Many times I wouldn’t feel a thing but, when I felt it, it was bothersome. A little annoying. Kind of curious. However, it would immediately disappear after the run and sometimes not show up again for weeks. I figured that I must need a shoe with more cushion for longer runs and started researching new glass slippers in the Fall. But before I could transition, I had a suite of Fall races to run, including my first 10-miler in November. As my race report details, I really struggled through the last leg of this race with this pain which, for the first time, was not a dull ache but a screaming problem. I blamed my shoes and happily retired them after that.
But this time the pain didn’t just disappear. And it stole some of the joy from my run as I worried every time I laced up that I would be hit with that awful feeling again. Not wanting to waste any time, I went to see a podiatrist who analyzed my gait and told me I have some “biomechanical issues” – meaning, I over-pronate which I already knew, and apparently my right leg is a touch shorter than my left. Not much I can do about that little defect! My podiatrist thought custom sport orthodics and some laser therapy to heal the scar tissue in my foot would do the trick. I was allowed to keep running, but only shorter distances while I waited for my orthodics to arrive and the laser therapy to begin.
The orthodics arrived a week or so later and I was anxious to get familiar with them. She did some laser therapy on my foot which is essentially heat treatment with shocks (yes, shocks – ouch!). My foot hurt just walking for 3 days after the treatment and then started to feel better. I ran 5K in my new orthodics to test things out. My toes felt numb part-way through the run which was another, less common issue I had been having in the same foot, but no pain on the ball. A few days later I set off on a longer run and unfortunately, the pain returned only much worse than before. I should have stopped before I did, but I really needed a run and everything else felt great – legs, lungs, heart, head. I loved being out there again, my first long run in a few weeks. It was a beautiful day with gorgeous views along the water. If only it didn’t hurt with every other step.
This was enough to send me back to my podiatrist to tell her that I was still running with pain. She told me I should be wearing my orthodics as much as possible and – the dreaded words – to stop running for 2 weeks. She also noticed my foot was a little swollen. She did another round of laser therapy. After that, the pain became constant and my foot continued to swell. I began to worry that maybe we were dealing with a fracture. What if we had been treating a break as soft tissue damage? What if every run had just been making the fracture worse? With the holidays now fast approaching and no time to waste, I went to an urgent care clinic where they did an x-ray which did not show anything – however, the doctor (another Disney runner, by the way!) was quick to tell me that stress fractures do not always show in an x-ray. She ordered a bone scan which I had today – meaning I am now radioactive! Add a tiara and a cape and we have a new princess superhero!
Fortunately, the scan did not show a stress fracture but unfortunately, the whole world has been on holiday while my injury has gotten worse. My foot is so swollen I can barely walk and have been reduced to hobbling around on the side of my foot. I am in my running shoes all day long for some support. I am icing every hour. I am taking pain meds. And I am still sore! It is very hard to imagine running a half-marathon right now when I can barely walk through the grocery store.
So much of running is mental and working through an injury calls on those same strategies as you go through the stages of denial, anger, grief, frustration and disappointment. I have always skipped over the injury sections of running books and magazines as something that did not pertain to me. But here I am: a running princess who cannot run. With 2 months to the Princess Half-Marathon and after 10 months of training, I am so disappointed in my body and beyond frustrated with this set back. However, I am also determined that this set back will result in a comeback, princess-style!
I have rented a stationary bike for the month of January so that I can keep my cardio fitness. The bike pedals allow me to push without using the sore part of my foot. I am also doing some core work and lifting weights so that I don’t lose upper body strength. I have to believe that this story will have a happy ending as I have worked too hard to give up now. If I have to run the half-marathon in a cast and on crutches, you better believe I will paint that cast pink, bedazzle those crutches and have at it! One of the traits of a true princess is perseverance (aka stubborness) and, in this regard, I am most suited for the role. See you at the start line!
Tell us: Have you ever been sidelined with an injury?