I didn’t coin that term. Amelia Boone did. If you don’t know who she is…look her up. I think she’s one of the biggest badasses on the planet.
Amelia sent me an email back in April. She started it by writing, “You don’t know me, but…”
–false. I knew very well who she was and I was humbled and floored to be receiving an email from her.
Amelia had just been diagnosed with a femoral stress fracture and was reaching out to me to hear my experience/journey with the injury (because let’s be honest: who doesn’t scour the internet, looking for advice and every single piece of reading material you can possibly find after getting diagnosed with an injury?)
I happily shared my story with her, assuring her she’d feel better in no time…respect the process…be a good patient…cross-train and get stronger…yes, I know it sucks big time…blah blah blah. We exchanged a few emails, and left off with me saying, “I hope you’re doing better and better every day!”
In the months following our email conversation, Amelia took to her blog to express her frustrations about her injury and how difficult of a time she was having with recovery. Even though we were no longer communicating via email, I read her posts, agreeing with every word, in particular this post, where she unapologetically admits that running and training are part of her identity…and that’s just the way it is.
Because, for better or worse, as humans, we seek to define ourselves. We seek meaning, and we seek joy. And for athletes, racing and competing in their chosen sport IS that joy. You build your identity around things you love, around the happiness you feel. You build your community with like-minded individuals, and the sport becomes your purpose in life. And, frankly, I fail to see anything wrong with that. -Amelia Boone
So when I came home from work today, sore, and with irritated hamstrings from my new PT program, I plopped down on my couch with some chocolate…opened up my computer…and reread Amelia’s blogs. And that’s when the tears started. Lots and lots of tears.
When I first read her posts–back when they were published a few months ago–I was happy and healthy and my running was going really well. I was in the best shape of my life, and only getting faster. With each workout, I was achieving a new feat…feeling stronger every day…always excited to go on my runs.
But today I am injured. I have been injured for a while; I’ve just been denying it. The word “injury” was something I had been terrified of using, ever since I had the tibia/femur bone issues in 2014 and 2015. “A muscle/tendon ‘thing’ isn’t an injury,” I told myself. “An injury is a stress fracture. I don’t have an injury. I have a hamstring ‘thing.'”
So, here it is: I have hamstring tendinosis. I also have sacroilitis. In other words: my hamstrings (yes, both at this point) are chronically inflamed and my SI joints (also, yes, both sides), are also inflamed.
I’ve always felt a little tight on one side; but then 2 weeks before Boston, I had a day where things just didn’t feel right. I had just run a hilly 18 mile workout the day prior, and on this particular day, I was slated to run 15, which I did as a 10/5 double. I remember feeling aerobically great…but my body was really beat up. Then, 2 days later, I wrote this in my training plan:
I went into Boston feeling really good, but the tendonitis had already manifested itself on one side. I ran the race…PRed through the heat…then took some time to recover. And then I ran 2 more marathons before 2016 came to a close. The one-sided hamstring pain became two-sided. The sometimes achy SI pain became chronic.
I was never in pain while running until 2 weeks before Philly. The pain was so bad, it was radiating down to my coccyx (tailbone). But taper helped, and I ran the race with only mild pain and tightness.
Then, 4 days after Philly, I valiantly (stupidly) raced my local turkey trot and ran almost a 30-second PR. I was in pain for that too.
Then I stopped running. James told me to take a break until the new year. I gladly obliged, knowing I needed both a physical and mental rest. I hadn’t taken so much time off since my femur injury; but I knew it was good for me. I figured I’d be back up and running in the new year.
The new year came. I went for a 4 mile run on January 9th that put me in so much pain the following day, I could barely walk.
Enough was enough.
I raised my white flag on January 10th and committed myself to an extensive 3x/week strength and PT program. My weekly mileage for the past 3 weeks has not gone above 8. I am allowed 5-15 minute runs on the TrueForm, and they are the most glorious moments of my day. I’m fairly certain my PT thinks I’m a lunatic.
I’ve pretty much secured a 24-hour pass to the merry-go-round of self-flagellation. -Amelia Boone
I’ve climbed aboard Amelia’s merry-go-round, and I’m riding it hard these days.
“Oh, you’re hurt…again?”
…yeah, well…my PT thinks this is all residual effects of those stupid stress fractures…and we all know why those happened…
“Well at least you work in a gym!”
…I used to live and breathe for the 60 minutes spent by myself during lunch, on the canal trail, behind my workplace. Unlike other Instagram “trainers” you see online: no, we do not skip around our weight room, constantly doing pull-ups and box jumps whilst simultaneously throwing kettlebells and bars over our heads. Do not believe anything the internet tells you.
“Oh hamstring pain? Everyone has a running nag…it’s just part of being a runner”
…I REFUSE to believe that everyone runs in pain. It’s not right, nor is it normal.
“At least you’re not training for anything!”
…I was signed up for Boston, thank you very much. It was supposed to be my 4th consecutive year running it. I also was just in the best shape of my life, and now, poof, I’m not. (Yes, also, the world is ending and Trump is our president, so put a fork in me Jerry.)
“Well you ran a lot in 2016, so it’s good you have time to rest.”
…Go to hell.
Finally, of course, as Amelia so perfectly writes, there’s also this:
…the (what I call) “there are children starving in Africa” phenomenon – I feel ashamed that I’m crying and being a bag of shit over a tiny crack in a bone given how “blessed I am” compared to so many people in the world. The inner monologue that goes: “it’s JUST running. Stop being so dramatic and emotional, Amelia. It’s not like you’re dying. Or will never run again.” (I’m sure many of you reading this would like to slap me and tell me the same thing right now). -Amelia Boone
And then there’s my own inner embarrassment and pride. I’m a running and strength coach. I preach about prehab and lifting. I encourage my runners to listen to their bodies. What kind of example did I set? How can I say to listen to your body, when I did exactly the opposite for months? How do I STILL deserve outreach of my athletes, friends, and random people from the interwebs, saying how much of an inspiration I am? Surely, I can’t be an inspiration if I’m injured.
Unlike my bone injuries, I don’t know what I could’ve done differently. I mean…obviously…I could’ve stopped running way back in May, when this issue first popped up. But a tendon injury is so much different from a bone injury, especially because mine didn’t hurt while running until the final couple weeks before stopping. As strong as I am, I guess I wasn’t ready for some of the speed and mileage I took on this year. Sure, I kept getting faster…but I kept digging myself into a hole too. When you love something so much, it’s difficult to take a step back and realize that the thing you love just might be hurting you.
I wasn’t ready to write a post like this for a very long time. I still don’t like saying, “I’m injured,” so it’s difficult to be transparent. But chronic pain isn’t “just another running nag,” and it just took me a few months to realize that. Running through pain isn’t normal.
I’m going to say that again.
Running through pain isn’t normal. We, as runners, want to be tough. We are type-A, and many of us want to follow our training plans to a T. But that’s not always what’s best for our bodies.
It is now February. I don’t know when I’ll be better, and that’s why I feel lost. But at this stage, what’s the point of starting up running/training again if I’m only going to be back in pain in a few days? Or weeks? Or months? The pain is still there, deep at the hamstring attachments. If I piss my legs off enough, the shooting, down-the-leg sciatic pain still returns while sitting. Tendon/joint injuries are a weird and real thing…and they suck.
I love running. I love training. I love accomplishing big goals. And I miss that. I really really miss that. I’ve made running part of my life and part of my identity. So today, I will have my pity party, and I won’t apologize about it. Tomorrow, I will wake up, be incredibly sore from today’s new PT program…and find another source of varied movements to do during lunchtime to keep my HR (and sanity) around 70% for 45 minutes (it doesn’t take much to max me out these days, folks).
…I need to move forward, accept that I’m never going to be the same athlete, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. -Amelia Boone
Yeah. I’m still working on that one, Amelia. Maybe if I tape that quote to my dresser mirror and say it out loud to myself every morning, I’ll start to believe it. But I do think you’re right. Closing the pre-femur/tibia injury chapter was the only way I was able to beast through 2016, which, admittedly, was a bittersweet running year. I came back from both injuries to PR in all distances–yet–I faced external adversity with every single marathon. Anger doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about the distance. For the first time EVER with my running, last year, I failed to meet a goal I set out to achieve. I’m fucking livid.
I will run a sub-3 marathon. It’s indisputable in my mind, and something that I’m 100% capable of doing. But not in 2017. Hell, maybe not even in 2018. I don’t know when it will happen…but it will. It’ll happen when I’m stronger and healthy; and when my hamstrings aren’t hanging on by a thread. In the meantime, I’ll continue to dream of the same quarter-mile finish line stretch at Boston that I always visualize when I’m doing something tough. And the time on the clock…well…we all know what it’s going to say.