The stages of grief (as seen through the eyes of an injured runner).
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve talked about it on the blog but if you know me in person, my stupid running injury has consumed quite a bit of my thoughts, my tears, and my patience. And if you deal with me on a daily basis, well god bless your little soul. It’s been about 7 weeks since this all started and I honestly didn’t think it would take this long to heal. For something that seemed relatively minor, I figured a couple weeks off and I’d be good to go. This is where the “newbie runner” sign gets plastered on my forehead again, because clearly I had no idea.
Stage 1: Denial
Obviously in those first few days I woke up every morning praying that it had just been a dream, or that the pain I had been feeling magically gone away overnight, or that maybe I had just made it up. When I was finally forced to make the appointment with an Orthopedic – shit got real.
Stage 2: Anger
Unfortunately, I do anger well. I have a horrible flaw of using it when I don’t know how to express what I’m feeling. I got angry with my body, with my gait, my balance, my shoes. I got angry with my damn hips that no matter how much weight I’ve lost never seem to shrink and NOW they’re the reason I can’t run. I was angry that I took a break, angry that maybe I came back from it a little over zealous. I was angry with my job, with bootcamp, even with my beloved trainer. Angry when I would get my hopes up with a run… only to wake up the next morning in pain again. I just wanted someone or something to blame and the fact that I didn’t made it even more frustrating.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Bargaining mostly took place with my “patience of a saint” trainer. From the moment I came back with my doctor’s note and a face full of snotty tears she had plans A-Z on how to get me back to healthy and running. And while I put my full faith in her knowledge and plans… it doesn’t mean I didn’t try to bargain my way back to running (and running further) as fast as possible. I promised extra stretching, incredibly slow miles and while I always knew the answer in the back of my head- you bet I still tried my best. Looking back, it’s amazing she hasn’t killed me (yet).
Stage 4: Depression
I guess since running can give you such a high, it shouldn’t have surprised me just how low it can also bring you. Just as soon as I started to feel like I had control of the situation some new thought would enter my mind and I would lose it again. The fact that days and weeks were slipping by and I was losing the endurance I had built up was incredibly defeating, and I often wondered if this was my body’s way of telling me I am just not meant to be a runner. Maybe Shakira had it right all along- hips don’t lie.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Acceptance is a hard one when you’re as stubborn as I am, because acceptance means that you have given up control. If there’s anything I’ve learned about running it’s that there are always going to be elements out of your control. Becoming a better runner means learning how to deal with the curveballs and rework your plans. When I realized I had no other options to resort to, I gave in to acceptance. I accepted that I was injured, and that coming off a running injury takes time and patience. I accepted that had to trust my trainer and her plans A-Z. I accepted that training for this half marathon isn’t going to be what I thought it was going to be, and that there’s a chance I may not even make it to the starting line. I accepted that the real goal here isn’t to get me to my next 5K as quick as possible, but to make sure that I have a long, healthy and happy life as a runner. Acceptance didn’t happen overnight, and sometimes it disappeared as quickly as it came. But in the end I knew the only was I was ever going to make it through this was if I just sucked it up and accepted.
I can’t say that I’m completely in the clear yet, but there is definitely a light at the end of my injury tunnel. My pain levels have been decreasing, my runs increasing. Last weekend was the big test where I was allowed to run a local 10K – slowly, no racing. It may not have been my fastest race, but crossing that finish line without any pain was the absolute win of the day. Slowly, but surely… I am coming back.