Coping with Injuries

I managed to avoid you for the six years I’ve been running, but you’ve finally found me. Was it the Ultras? The way I break with my heels on the downhills? The cumulative kilometrage? Those cheap boots with thin soles I kept wearing because they looked adorable? Was it fate – my time to learn a lesson? Was it simply my turn after such a long streak?

Running keeps me calm, at peace, functioning efficiently. Ask my unfortunate colleagues who have seen the impact injury has had on my mood. They’ve seen me, usually smiling and energetic, shuffling down the halls zombie-like, cartoon storm clouds hovering over my head. It’s so easy to spiral into the deep comforting vortex of self-pity. That cozy, lonely place where you can wallow and spin unhappily-ever-after fantasies.

Less than two weeks without running. It doesn’t sound like much, but for someone who runs 5+ times a week, it is devastating. In a regular week I would join two or three running crews for social runs, run home from work at least once, log a long run and hopefully some trails as well. But now I had survived nine days of nothing. I went to work and straight home after to mope around, avoiding the outdoors. What’s the point when I can’t run? (I should mention that even walking from the bus to work left me hobbling in excruciating pain.)

Here’s where my mind goes when I don’t run: I am incompetent at life. At work. At relationships. At friendships. I’ll lose these great friends I’ve made because I can’t run with them. My non-running friends will be sick of my complaining and crying about being injured. Maybe I’ll never run again. Maybe this is it. Game over. All those 2017 race entries wasted. My attempt at the Seattle Quadzilla 2016 (4 marathons in 4 days in November) thwarted before I even had the chance to tackle it.

The good news is, eventually you hit bottom. The thoughts can’t get any more negative, so maybe it’s time to look forward. All the cliches came to mind – you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone etc. I thought, if/when I run again, I will thank my body for every step. I won’t take it for granted again. Did I really say, only weeks earlier, that running less than 5km isn’t even worth it? What I would do now to run even 1km! I wrote poems of hearbreak and loss to my legs, that left heel in particular. My friends, both of the running and non-running variety, supported me, gave me advice (Rolling my foot on a frozen water bottle? Genius!), told me it would pass. And then, the magical words:

Bruised heel.

After reconciling myself to my self-diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, the news my physio gave me were miraculous. I’ve had lots of bruises! I can deal with a bruise! And then, it got even better. After hearing that I could try a walk/run after walking pain-free for an hour and jumping pain-free for a minute, I convinced myself I could do both.

And that first run…it was pure, calm, zen. It was everything running means to me – perseverance, solitude, pushing the boundaries. I felt stiff and out of breath and uncomfortable. All the wonderful feelings one should experience while running! I took walk breaks. I forced myself to stop at 4km, to have a long cooldown, to stretch and ice afterwards. And then I did it again. And again. And then again, but a little longer and with my running crew friends. It was slow, but the progress was visible.

On my run home from work last week, the first in a while, I was getting frustrated with my speed – or lack thereof. Then I realized what a fool I was, shook my head, covered my watch and smiled as I tackled another hill. I am running! My legs are moving and I am traveling forward! If that’s not worthy of a celebration right now, then what is?

Tanja Cvekic

Age: 31
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Running: Eugene Full Marathon

I traded cigarettes for running shoes in December 2009. Never having envisioned myself as a runner, I couldn’t imagine running a 10KM, let alone a marathon or an ultra. Now running is such a central part of my life that I almost can’t believe that I haven’t always been a runner. The year I turned 30, I ran 30 races and a 30 mile birthday run. 2016 has been the year of ultras and trail running! Things that seemed impossible even a year ago are now accomplishments. I used to say “I don’t train, I just run” but I will train this time to Boston Qualify in Eugene.

Why do you run?
“I run to feel clarity, calm, peace to rid myself of negativity, to set the bar higher for myself, to socialize, to find solitude, to be in nature.”

Tanja Cvekic