What if I Don’t Identify as a Runner Anymore?

My running journey isn’t linear, but there was definitely a point in time where I recognized I was drawn to running more than most of the other workouts I had been exposed to. I was fairly active in sports growing up – starting in dance class as a three year old, adding soccer in elementary school, then softball in late elementary and into middle school. In high school I moved more toward cheerleading and further away from most of the other sports, but kept my ties with soccer and participated in weightlifting class instead of gym, and dabbled in cross country and track and field. I saved up for months as a high school senior to afford the initiation fee and first month of membership at a brand new fitness center opening in my hometown, and stayed mostly active throughout the next couple of years following that.

However, when I helped volunteer at the finish line of Grandma’s marathon with my sister, putting medals on the finishers in 2007, I thought it was insane that every runner who crossed the finish line was different. Women, men, old, young, trim and fit, to larger and less like the “runners” I saw in magazines. It dawned on me that I could do it… that running – even if you weren’t “good at it” was for everyone. I made a promise to myself that I would run Grandma’s marathon the next year. And I did… I mean, run is a pretty loose term; however, I moved forward – regardless of pace – until I crossed the finish line of my first race, my first marathon. And that’s sort of the defining moment where I really think I began to identify as a runner.

My sister, Jana’, and bestie, Stef at the finish line after my first race in 2008.

Of course over the last 12 years I’ve experienced some highs and lows, and plenty of injuries from not really knowing what I was doing and learning about health and wellness around running and activities over the years. Mostly, from trial and error – lots of error. Fractured metatarsals, achy knees, a cleavage tear in my meniscus, stress reaction in my femur, tight IT bands, weak hamstrings, I even found out I have an extra navicular bone in one of my feet that can cause some injury/flare ups from time to time. Anyway, I’ve spent most of the last 5 years injury-free from all that I’ve learned along the way… with the exception of a strained hamstring. And it’s this strained hamstring that I think is going to be the death of my running career for the most part.

I don’t know if it’s luck, fate, or whatever, but we moved to Western North Carolina almost 2 years ago and there are SO many amazing things to do here. I think this place is a pretty big part of the reason I injured myself running, along with recovering from pregnancy, I didn’t do enough strength training and the hills here are NO JOKE. Couple that with pushing a stroller for my marathon training. I’m sure it created the PR I had at my last full marathon, but also contributed greatly to this nagging injury.

After fighting with it for most of last year during the pandemic (which was fine, because races weren’t happening), I resolved to stop running completely and focus on other things. January was very yoga-centric for me, and I weave in and out of that being a constant in my routine. I’m also going back to the drawing board and getting another look and opinion as to what’s going on. I’ve had so many different opinions weigh in, that I kind of want to blur out all the distractions and figure out how to be able to live – and eventually run – pain free again. February and beyond created a lot of opportunity for me to start climbing and we recently joined the Riveter, a local climbing and bike park with some additional fitness offerings.

I do appreciate the confidence that climbing has been giving me. And I feel like I’ve gotten so strong so fast at it. From trying a 5.9 the first day and failing miserably, to having crushed 5.7, 5.8, 5.9’s and working on solving 5.10’s – not to mention the boulder problems… Those are really fun!

Over the last few months of second opinions on my legs with a new ortho, and some new imaging, we have a new plan that may have me looking forward to running by the end of the year. It might be good that I spent so much time fighting my legs and kind of resorted to “giving up” because it has made the transition to less and less activity a little easier. (not easy… easier. It’s still hard, it still sucks, and it’s definitely a mental mind-fuck for someone like me.)

Last week, I had a procedure where we took numerous vials of blood and processed them to retain the platelet rich plasma from the blood. Platelet rich plasma – from what I understand – is full of growth factors and attractors to promote soft tissue recovery. Ultimately, we wanted to address a tear in the Hamstring origin (left side), tendinosis in the Hamstrings (both sides), and a bunch of additional “issues” that were accompanying those tears and injuries and inhibiting recovery (and causing a TON of pain). So taking this platelet rich plasma (PRP) and using ultrasound to guide injections into specific sites and really target this all encompassing hamstring, hip, glute, and IT band issue that is keeping me from being active.

It was fascinating to watch! Now, it was EXTREMELY painful… seven different sites – four on the left, three on the right – and two injections per site, really had me squirming for a while. Overall, the process took about two hours and I we identified additional tears that weren’t seen on the previous imaging. I left in crutches and with instructions that I wasn’t allowed to take NSAIDS (because we wanted to promote healing inflammation to these areas and NSAIDs would inhibit that), and I definitely wasn’t allowed to workout. That part was fine, because honestly I was in so much pain for the first 24+ hours that even using my legs was almost out of the question.

Now, four days later, I’m off crutches – though still limping slightly – and I’m getting a little antsy. I’ve tried to pay closer attention to my diet over the last month since my enormously decreased activity level basically can’t support my previous caloric intake. I’ve also had to chase away (or at least, attempt to chase away) some pretty negative self talk around my body, appearance, and those kinds of feelings. Things that I haven’t felt in years – aside from gaining a ton of weight during my pregnancy lol.

Anyway – the plan for now is to not do anything with my lower-body until I meet with my new physical therapist on Monday. I’ve told them they need to be highly prescriptive with me to make sure I know exactly what I can and cannot do, because I’ll abuse any inch they give me. After Monday, I’ll have an idea of what kind of activity I can resume, and which to avoid… I likely won’t have a full return to similar calorie burns for another couple of months (i.e., bootcamp, high impact activities, etc). Overall, we’re looking at a 3-month reassessment to determine full next-steps with my ortho, and hopefully a light and slow return to running plan by the end of the year.

In the meantime, I’ve started a few home improvement plans and it’s garden season so those should help keep me busy and occupied. Also, you’ve all noticed my uptick in reading, and I have plenty to keep me busy for the next couple of months. Keep sending healing thoughts my way, and I’ll do my best to keep a log of how rehab and recovery goes throughout this process. Thanks for sticking with me… Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.