My ankle injury turned out to be more of a big deal than I’d hoped it would be, and after I concluded my February post by stating, “March is going to be better, it’s got to be,” March ended up worse than February by far.
I moped around the house in abject pain for a while, and then finally conceded to see a “sports medicine” doctor (actually an orthopedic surgeon), who was about as helpful as I imagined he would be. He agreed with me that this was a tibialis posterior tendon injury, although he hedged his bets by saying that there was a slight chance it could be a stress fracture instead. Either way, the treatment was the same: don’t run until it stops hurting. When it is finally safe to run, I should proceed with an extremely conservative comeback. For example, run 2 minutes of a 10 minute walk. If there were no problems, then the following week I could bump it up to 3 minutes of a 15 minute walk. And so on. Under this plan, it was going to be at least June before I could run as much as 3 miles. He also suggested “custom made orthotics,” and I thought, my god—has this guy even read Born to Run?
I’m pretty sure the doctor knew as well as I did that I wasn’t going to follow his plan.
I did wait until I was at least moderately pain-free to attempt running again—10 days instead of the suggested minimum of 2 weeks—and I “conservatively” ran two 5-minute chunks of a ~22 minute walk. It was fine but not great.
The doctor hadn’t mentioned anything other than rest to help this heal, but I kept up with very aggressive stretching and strengthening exercises. I also did ice massage, which is basically like deep tissue massage with an ice cube. This was the only thing that seemed to make the tendon feel better, although on a couple of occasions, I may have gone a little bit too deep and “zinged” my tibial nerve (not a terribly pleasant experience).
Ice massage seemed to reduce the pain, but it may have led to the weird and unexpected “bruising stage” of the healing process.
I kept doing this very limited run/walk thing every other day or two, and while it wasn’t really painful anymore, something just felt off. It was around this time that I read an Ellie Greenwood interview after her comeback win at Chuckanut 50K. In the interview, she talked a little about the injuries that kept her sidelined for an entire year. One of these was a “jammed up” tibialis posterior tendon, and I realized, that was it—the tendon didn’t hurt per se, instead it felt jammed, like the way your fingers might get jammed if you are as horrible as I am at playing volleyball.
I decided, in a last ditch effort, to try kinesiology tape in hopes that it would relieve some of the pressure on the jammed up tendon. Theoretically, I saw no reason why this stuff should work, but it has become fairly popular in the distance-running world, and I thought it was worth a shot. A friend once explained to me that the way the tape functioned was sort of like magic or superstition. You know, you wear your favorite shorts, your lucky socks, and the hat you had on when you set a PR; then you put some kinesiology tape on an area that’s been feeling a bit dodgy, and you’re fine. Maybe it was like some of the weirder stuff we learned about in the doula workshop I attended last summer (i.e., auras). The instructor made a point to tell us, “You don’t have to believe in this for it to work. Just try it and see."
So I bought the tape, watched an instructional video on You-Tube, and got Will to help with the application.
I ran 2 miles and felt like I was floating on air.
I waited a day and ran 4. Still no pain. I tried running 2 days in a row, and I was fine, fine, fine.
I began thinking, for the first time since things had gotten bad, what if I could run the St. Louis marathon after all? I signed up for it on a whim back in October, and the goal with it had never been to PR—just to have fun. I got to thinking, what if I cover the distance without caring about time? And what if I do so while wearing a Wonder Woman costume?!
I started to feel happy about something for the first time in months.
So today I decided to go out and test myself: I taped my ankle into forced-supination and went out and ran 14 miles. My last run of that distance was almost 2 months ago, and I’ve taken over 40 days of complete rest since then. I was terrified that it would hurt, or that I would cause serious re-injury, or that any number of calamities would happen. But I was fine.
So the question remains. Should I do it? There is a 6.5 hour time limit, which is a pace I’ve convinced myself that I should be able to manage. There’s even a drop-out point, about 15 miles in, where I could jet off course if I needed to and go back home. Plus, I have my Wonder Woman costume already in the stages of assembly.
I realize this is completely insane. If someone asked me the same question, I would tell them absolutely not. Do not do it. It is not worth extraordinarily high risk of re-injury.
But still. Running. This would be my 13th marathon. Lucky 13.
We’re moving from St. Louis soon (god-willing), and running 26.2 miles through this city that’s given me mostly loss and sorrow would be a good way to gain closure.
Plus, you know, I just need to feel alive. These past several months have been just about the hardest months of my life. I quit my job, I can’t run, most of the time I can’t even get off the couch. I cry every day. It sucks. And to miss out on this marathon too? That would be such a bitter pill to swallow. Meanwhile, I still go to Rob’s races, cheer him on and watch him win or at least come in the top 5, and even though I am of course happy for him and proud of him, I’m just completely overwhelmed by my own mediocrity, or whatever is less than mediocrity. It feels like a feast on scraps.
I guess I’ve just got to weigh the risks and benefits. Would it be worth it? Would I get a tiny bit of self-satisfaction from covering that distance? And what if I tried but couldn’t do it— if exhaustion or injury got the best of me and I had to drop, maybe I’d feel worse than if I'd just made the “smart” decision not to start at all. There are just so many uncertainties. Getting re-injured would be a deal-breaker, but I don’t have a crystal ball. Realistically, I know that attempting this distance might end up making the marginally-healed tendon even worse than before and require months of recovery. But I’d like to believe that I could run the whole thing pain-free—soaking in the cheers of the spectators, finishing with a smile and then taking leave of this place, never to return.
30.16 miles this month. 257.06 year to date.
Feeling very overwhelmed right now. Any advice would be appreciated.
Thanks for reading.