Monday, June 28, 2010

Taking it on the chin..

One of the most heartbreaking lessons one learns as a runner is that aggravations and injuries are effectively inevitable. Countless prospective clients have engaged me with the idea that I will somehow help them run 'injury free' in perpetuity.

I have no choice but to be honest in telling these individuals that you can have the best biomechanics/form on the planet, the best shoes available, the best training on the planet, and still find yourself injured.

Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezghi, Kara Goucher, Paula Radcliffe, and countless other elite level runners have been felled on occasion and these are some of the best on the planet with the best possible coaches and resources at their disposal.

The knowledge that injuries can (and likely 'will') happen at some point does not provide much comfort or solace when it actually does occur. There's no way to mentally prepare for having something you love abruptly taken away from you. I suppose the closest thing one might compare it to is a breakup. It's simply heartbreaking.

While I always tell my injured runners to remain positive and proactive, I am well acquainted with the various fears, doubts, and disappointments that simmer in the background as one deals with injuries.

Will I be able to run again? When will I be able to run again? How much fitness will I lose? How long will it take to get back to the kind of shape I was in before? Is this even worth it?

I am well acquainted with all of this because I have dealt with all of it before. For better or worse, I have personal experience with just about every running related aggravation and injury out there.

I find myself confronted with all of this yet again as I stare down a stress reaction/fracture I incurred just two weeks from entering taper for a marathon that likely would have been my fastest ever. Heartbreaking is pretty much the only adjective that accurately describes this setback.

Truly, the emotional anguish of this injury transcends any other given how close I was to achieving a goal that has been in my mind for nearly 5 years.

If I were advising myself, I would likely provide the same direction I'd provide any other runner. Focus on the positive. Do whatever you can to maintain your fitness. Be proactive and aggressive in facilitating your recovery. All of this is sound advice.

But, I'd be lying to you if I said I am in a space where I am solely focusing on the positive. I'd be misleading you if I said I'm feeling enthusiastic about 'maintaining' my fitness on a stationary bike or in a swimming pool. I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm distraught.

That doesn't mean I am wallowing in the aforementioned, but just like any other trauma in life, it's important to acknowledge all of your emotions...not just the fuzzy, happy ones that people want to hear about. To bottle it up and pretend like it isn't there isn't healthy and it's just not me.

So, the next time you find yourself sidelined (and it almost inevitably will happen), try to stay positive, try to maintain your fitness through alternative activities, and try to be as proactive as you can in facilitating your recovery.

But, don't ignore the shitty feelings. Acknowledge them. Talk about them. Get them out of your system as much as you can in whatever way you can. Seek out others who know what you're going through just as you would seek out close friends when you go through a breakup or any other trauma in life. Shed a few tears if you need to.

While aggravations and injuries are inevitable, so is healing. Look forward to the day when you will be back. It's likely you will be smarter and stronger. Don't forget that everyone loves a comeback. Start planning yours.


Anne said...

I'm right there with you Matt. You described my feelings exactly over the past month. I'm so sorry. :( It gets tiresome being the comeback kid over and over. My best wishes for a full recovery and a future that somehow sees this period as an important step forward.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Matt. I'm planning my comeback now!

Kate said...

Thanks for your honesty and inspiration, Matt. Happy healing!

Anonymous said...

Matt, do you ever think your body might be trying to tell you something? You're too strong of a runner to be sidelined.

Marathon Matt said...

Thanks for the thoughts/comments, folks!

Anonymous (#2), even the best runners on the planet get felled by injury. It's something all runners almost inevitably encounter..strong, slow, fast, etc.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (#2) took the words out of my mouth...our physical bodies often seem smarter than our mental ones. Whenever I feel like my body is "betraying" me (e.g. bailing right before a big race), I wonder if it's my body smacking me for not listening to my head or heart. Good luck with your recovery.

mike said...

Matt, just now reading about your injury and wanted you to know I'm sorry to hear about the stress fracture. Major bummer, and so close to such an important run. Hang in there, know your bone is healing, and think about that next big run.

I ran the first half of the SFM this year without much focused training. My time was not great but I had a good day of it, and continue to see running as an important part of my lifestyle.

Best... miker