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.