Diary of an injured runner #1

Being on crutches for six weeks has given Annie Rice a whole new perspective on being an injured runner, read about the journey so far.

by Annie Rice

Background story

Six weeks ago my marathon ended abruptly at mile 24.6 (to be precise) with excruciating pain in my knee and an inability to stand or walk any longer. I didn’t finish the race. The tale of woe was all the more woeful as I was on for a 30 minute PB and had trained through the cruel British winter like a demon. There has been no room for staying out late, drinking, meeting friends or straying too far from a foam roller for several months. Un-natural levels or porridge were consumed, crazy miles run, pain, sweat, tears, niggles, joy, protein, rain were all part of the journey.

Weeks of scans, crutches, a few wheelchairs, many many tears, blood tests and appointments later and I’m on the rehab path. My diagnosis is a stress fracture to my femur (just where it meets the knee) and it isn’t too common. I’ve had to hop and rest for six weeks to avoid bearing any weight while it heals and I am now finally commencing active rehab with the incredible Isokinetic clinic and I'm able to move a bit more once again.

Injury is a right of passage for any runner. I am no stranger to it myself, having previously picked up various niggles. At the time, my chronically tight calf, or troublesome ITB band felt like the end of the world. But one thing a fracture to the bone has given me is some perspective, and a decent comparison point for the future. Can you walk? Yes, well then suck it up and keep running. I jest, as of course we should always listen to our bodies, but there is something about the choice of whether or not to run being taken away from me that has changed this experience.

Regardless of the injury though, any runner who is prevented from running due to injury for any period of time will likely experience similar emotions. Here is what I’ve identified from the journey and some thoughts on how to deal with it.

The psychological trauma of injury:

Despair: total extreme mind shattering despair.

Tip: cry. Wail into your pillow, lock yourself in the bathroom, feel sorrowful, wallow in self-pity, be extremely dramatic. At first allow yourself to feel that this is in fact the end of your world.

Denial: it’s probably just a 24 hour thing.

Tip: Try to be realistic. You may need to let go of your PB dreams or hopes of running two half marathons next month, or your ego full stop. Everyone must realise that they are not in fact invincible. Your body is telling you something, (we’re sorry).

Jumping to the worst-case conclusions: Google self-diagnosing.

Tip: When a niggle or a full-blown injury creeps into your run, it’s oh so easy to rush home, type your symptoms in to Google and decide that you definitely have a fracture/tear/fundamental problem with your body. OK, sometimes you do have one of the above as I’ve learnt (and not in the fun way.) But regardless of this, THERE IS NO POINT. Being a hypochondriac helps no one, least of all your friends. You have to see an expert and try to see one as soon as possible. It’s the most productive thing you can do. It's better to have seen someone sooner rather than later, before the niggle becomes an injury for example.

Positivity: there will be light at the end of the tunnel

Tip: It’s great to reach this point. A few days after my incident I felt all philosophical about how this had happened for a reason and I imagined myself a few months in the future, much wiser and a better person and runner for it. Ride the high, be positive, it will be ok if you stay patient and focused. I believe this was my bodies was of telling me to look after myself fully if I’m going to be so demanding of it (understandably). It’s often a time to reflect and go back to basics. But also, don’t under estimate how hard the being patient bit is.

Insanity and general hostility towards life/other people

Tip: Going out of your mind is a common side effect of an injury-enforced break from running. I’ve only just started exercising at all and by exercising I mean 15 minutes on a stationary exercise bike. So that’s almost six weeks of doing nothing. Here are some of the thought processes that have been part of this journey: oh god I’m losing all of my fitness, oh god I’m losing all of those muscles I worked so hard for, how do I de stress when I cant exercise? I miss sweating, I miss my energy, I’m so lazy, everything is so boring, I miss fresh air on my face, will I ever run again? what if I forget how to run? how long until I can train for a race again? what is the point in my life? (I’m very dramatic), I have so much free time, I miss running. I recommend keeping a diary. I call mine ‘diary of my knee’. I don’t think it’ll make Richard and Judy’s best sellers list but it is very therapeutic to write things down and to use up some of that free time. Or, if you’re not into that, do something else productive with your time, even if it’s just catching up with all those friends you blew out for Tuesday speed work, it helps to find avenues other than running to get some sense of self satisfaction. Please note, it is also not helpful, although entirely understandable, to develop anger towards other runners. If you could you would. 

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Discuss this story

I hope the injury heals quickly. I was surprised you didn't mention using a Sports Therapist or similar to help speed up your injury rehab. Did you try this?

Injuries are dreadful, especially when you are in love with your running. All the best!

NK Massage Therapy

Posted: 21/05/2014 at 13:07

SPAM for lunch?
Posted: 21/05/2014 at 13:10

No strength training??

Posted: 22/05/2014 at 21:02


Just rub liberally with snake oil and you'll be just fine 

Posted: 22/05/2014 at 21:28

Sorry to hear of your struggles! I too am in the throws of an awful injury lay off at the moment, my world has literally come crashing down around my ears. What appeared to be a simple groin strain is still preventing em from running 10 weeks later, although i have now started swimming in the hope this keeps me fit while my recovery continues.

Anyone who has experienced a long layoff will know the struggles it brings but i agree with you about the light at the end of the tunnel. There came a point for me about 3 weeks ago when it became plainly obvious i would not be running the St Albans Half next weekend and that it wasnt the end of the world. This lifted a massive weight off my shoulders and my negativity has wained in recent weeks. Of course the activity increase through swimming has helped this greatly.

The upshot of it is, there will be other races. There will be bigger struggles. So for now its always best to focus of recovery rather than consider what might/may have been in those races we miss!

Posted: 23/05/2014 at 09:58

I enjoyed reading this - helps that there are others out there that feel the same way as I do when laid up with an injury.  I've had Piriformis syndrome for the past 10 weeks or so. Been seeing a physio for the past 4 weeks and although the pain is not as extreme as it was, Im nowhere near being able to run again and sometimes wonder if I ever will.  I'm trying to keep positive but it's difficult and frustrating at not being able to do something that I really enjoy. 

Posted: 25/05/2014 at 11:47

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