A Runner’s Injury, Pain & Hope

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning in Woodstock, NY.  I was all geared up for a 14 mile run and meditation retreat to follow.  The Chicago Marathon was only 2 months away and I was aiming for a 3:15 finish.  I had been shaving off 20 minutes every marathon since I started in 2013.  My training and weight goals were kicking into high gear, so I was confident I would begin tapping into my fullest potential for my age.

On that beautiful day I found a path by a creek and instinct told me the terrain was too treacherous for running.  I was only a half mile in when I decided to head back out of the woods to my car.  On a quick turn I struck the largest tree root in the entire forest, it was HUGE! (Silly me to think I could push a tree root). I struck the ground praying my foot was still attached, and the tears flooded my eyes.  These weren’t tears of physical pain but tears of sorrow for I knew running would be over.  The pain streamed in and warned me immediately that I was in trouble.

I went to the ER and my ankle was the size of a grapefruit.  Miraculously there were no fractures. I would soon learn all about the anatomy of the ankle.  The ligaments, joints, and tendons, and how all are equally important as the bones for ankle stability and functionality.

ankle injury

Agonizing months ensued with no activity.  The doctors and therapists all advised me to wait and let it heal. Everyone was reluctant to prescribe surgery. I slowly began some activities such as yoga and dancing, but running and jumping could not be supported.  My MRI results showed a completely severed ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament), partial tears to the calcaneo-fibular ligament and posterior talo-fibular ligament.  There were also tears to the anterior inferior tibiofibular ligament, causing a high ankle sprain as well.  High ankle sprains rarely occur, but did in my case (insert shot gun!!).  Needless to say I had a real fun day at the park.

No words can explain the pain and disappointment I experienced.  In spite of some of the most amazing milestones occurring in my life, I still lost something very important to me.  I had to learn to detach and reinvent my identity. Trying to find peace in other activities such as yoga and gym workouts.  Sometimes it works and sometimes not.

I continued visits to multiple orthopedic doctors, anxious to get second and third opinions on my condition.  I also battled with insurance companies who felt my treatment was not helping and may actually be doing more harm than good.  I had become my own advocate in a field I knew nothing about.  I was dealing with doctors who just didn’t get it.  They saw me as a recreational runner with a normal career, and whose livelihood did not depend on my running.  To them I wasn’t the elite athlete, and so, if I was able to walk, their job was done.  My Dilemma: I wasn’t looking to just return to walking, and modify my lifestyle to accommodate an old injury.  I wanted my health.  I wanted to run and train to win a race.  I wanted to taste a Marathon #6.

There is a danger in letting go and giving in.  I am forever grateful to a special person who provided me with another treatment alternative. Some Doctors tried to say that my ATFL could be healed when in reality, anatomy experts I had spoken to and other Specialists told me what I felt to be true.  The ligaments would have to be forceable reattached to regain stability.  My first attempt at alternative regenerative medicine began this week, and I now hope and trust that my body will do the rest.  There is no guarantee that this will bring my ankle back to the way it once was.  But as long as there is modern science and a will to be better, I will continue to try everything possible.  I do this for myself and for others who may not know about all the options that are available to them. Stay tuned as I share my journey in the hopes that it may one day help someone else.

I began my blog that fateful weekend I sprained my ankle. I called it “Evolution of a Runner”. No matter the outcome, this blog will continue to be about the evolution of a runner.  It will be about the evolution of an athlete, the evolution of our heart and our will.  Regardless the roadblocks placed in our way, we owe it to ourselves to persevere.

“If you want to be better run. If you can’t run walk. If you can’t walk crawl. If you can’t move your body then move your mind. If you can’t move your mind, move your heart. Movement is connection.
Connect within.. Connect beyond.” — Crystal Vida