Learning From Others' Mistakes: Learning Patience Through Injury
I hate injuries. Along with the pain as a constant reminder of what you can’t do comes the horrible feelings of how long it will take to get better, as well as the knowledge of how much fitness is being lost when you are unable to train.
Among my friends (many of whom are Kinesiology students like me) injuries are something that we look to prevent at all costs. We all have memories of how bad that first long-term injury hurt, not just physically but emotionally.
This is my story about injury
I was 16 years old and training for my first marathon. I was going to be racing in November 2014 in the Athens Marathon. It was a goal I had for a long time, having done a decent number of half marathons, I wanted to take a crack at the distance.
When school ended in June, the Summer before the race I decided to pick up my mileage since I had a lot more free-time due to not having a job. I went from running 40-50km per week to over 100km per week within the first couple weeks of summer (big mistake). Everything was feeling great; by not having a job I was able to rest most of the day and was always ready to train again the next day. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I would train with the Toronto Olympic club. On the other days I would usually do 10-15km on my own and 30+km for my long run days. I never really ran that easy, I liked going fast did my rest day runs almost at a tempo pace.
Things continued to feel good throughout the summer and I was getting faster and feeling more comfortable during my long runs. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not telling my coaches how far I was going on my off days, this really hurt me in the long run. As school started back up I continued my training until one day in mid September where I felt this pain in my foot. It wasn’t anything like I had felt before, but it didn’t feel right. I gave running a rest for a couple days and it still didn’t get better, so I went to see a doctor. He thought it might be a stress fracture, so I got an x-ray. It was all clear, so I thought I’d give it a couple more days and see if it got better. It didn’t. So, I went to see another doctor. This one had a background in sport. He thought it was a problem with the muscles in my feet, so I got a couple treatments with him over a couple weeks, but they didn’t help. I finally went to my coach to explain the problem (should have done this way earlier) and he said to go to a sports medicine doctor, so I did.
The sports medicine doctor also said he suspected a stress fracture, but it likely won’t show up on an x-ray and that I would need to get a bone scan. I was almost 1 month into not running and I still didn’t know what was wrong.
When I went to see the sports medicine doctor to get the results of the bone scan, I didn’t know what to expect. When he told me I had a stress fracture of the third metatarsal, I got a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach. When I asked what this meant for my race which was about 1 month away, he said it wasn’t likely I would be healed in time and even if it was, it wouldn’t be ready for a marathon. When the doctor left the room and I tried to talk to my dad I couldn’t hold back the tears and started bawling. I couldn’t believe what had happened. All that work, day after day, all for nothing.
For the next couple weeks I tried not to think about it too much, but I couldn’t help it. Every time I moved my foot I could feel it, as a reminder that I couldn’t race. When it got close to the race, with the plane tickets already booked, without insurance, we decided to go anyway, even if I couldn’t run. I talked to both my sports doctor and my coach and promised that if I do decide to race, I would drop out the moment I felt pain in my foot.
In Greece, I got caught up in the atmosphere and was leaning more and more towards starting the race, even if I couldn’t finish. 2 days before the race I went for a run on the treadmill of the hotel I was staying at for 5k. It was the first time I had run in 2 months, and it didn’t feel as bad as I was expecting, with the most important part: no foot pain!
Race morning came and I made the call to go to the start line and decide there if I would race. My parents were scared, and I was too. I remember looking out the window of the shuttle bus to the start line and wondering if I was making a horrible mistake, wondering if I should turn back. I got to the start line and warmed up with 10 000 other runners, at this point nothing could convince me to turn back.
I started the race -- the sights along the course were amazing. I was feeling good considering the absence of training and was able to hold a steady (albeit slow) pace up until about 32km. This is where my foot started to hurt, and my legs were starting to feel the effects of not training as well. In my mind I was too close to the finish to get off the course and just walked to the finish, hobbling for the last 10k.
After the race a spent the next day in bed sleeping. I had put the air cast back on, and it stayed on. This is where I started to realize the mistake I’d made. Following the race, I had essentially went back to square one, air cast and crutches for another 4 weeks.
Finally, after the 4 weeks I started to come back to running, only to make the same mistake for a third time, reinjuring myself. At this point I felt completely defeated, and wondered if my foot would ever heal.
It was March by the time I had learned my lesson. Six months after the original injury. At this point I was starting to swim and bike more than run, just to be on the safe side as I very, very slowly started running again.
Although I hated this injury at the time. It did 2 great things for me, it taught me not to try and run through injuries, instead letting them heal. Secondly, it’s one of the main reason’s I started triathlon and for that reason, I’m almost glad it happened.
Kyriakos is an elite triathlete and a member of the T1 Triathlon High Performance Team. Kyriakos recently raced at the ITU Age Group World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands.