I have been quiet about my running due to picking up two dreaded injuries. These mishaps prevented me from competing in the 21km Gun Run and I was gutted.
Recovering from bilateral bunionectomy last year where I was booked off from running for six months – the one thing that kept me going was the hope that I would return stronger and full of drive. When I finally received the go-ahead to return to my beloved running in May, I was elated.
I started off slowly and got back into the swing of things. A friend of mine wanted to train for a ten kilometre race and even though I knew it was too soon for me, I decided to train with her. I managed to run that race with plenty of walk breaks, which didn’t result in a great time, but I was glad I’d challenged myself. I went on to run another 10km race and a 15km race in quick succession. This is when I picked up something was terribly wrong with my right leg. It would go numb a few kilometres into a run, it felt like I was pulling a lead pole and I was placing immense strain on my good leg. I was expending so much energy getting through training runs, it was starting to mess with my mental belief in myself and I was becoming worried.
I consulted my Podiatrist on the numbness and he diagnosed it as compartment syndrome. This happens when pressure inside an enclosed space impedes the flow of blood to and from the affected tissues resulting in bleeding and swelling after an injury. I researched the condition and tried everything under the sun to warm my muscles before and after my runs, wore compression sleeves to alleviate the symptoms and stretched my calves religiously. Some days it would allow me to run pain free, whilst others it would torture me over a good few kilometres and then vanish as soon as it appeared.
I knew that I wanted to compete in the Gun Run. It was one of my favourite races and I needed to redeem the awful performance I encountered last year when I was injured with plantar fasciitis and struggled to cross the finish line. So I soldiered on, despite a rain cloud hanging over my head, intent on working hard towards my goal. At this point, we were incorporating hill work as the race itself had a treacherous incline which could make or break your performance.
I’ve never been a fan of hills and probably never will. Races are peppered with hills and one truly cannot escape them in Cape Town. We settled on Plattekloof which is notorious for its monster hills and you’re guaranteed a heart-pounding workout. I worked hard running those hills and when I felt I couldn’t tackle some, gave it a miss and walked up instead. All in all I thought I was doing pretty well in terms of my training and truly believed I would be race ready.
I was mistaken. During my final long run of 18 kilometres, I felt a stabbing pain in my right hip. Every step I took caused excruciating discomfort in my hip – but I refused to back down, wanting to bag the mileage and get the run over and done with. When I arrived home my hip was screaming and I was on the verge of tears. I knew something was horribly wrong and I needed to rehab it as soon as possible.
Once again I researched my symptoms and it pointed in the direction of trochanteric bursitis. This is a condition characterized by tissue damage and inflammation of the bursa (a small fluid filled sac located at the outer aspect of the hip) causing pain in the hip. This typically occurs due to repetitive running or walking (especially up hills or on uneven surfaces), placing strain on the bursa via the gluteals.
When I got out of bed the next morning I was limping and in agony and had to seek medical attention. I called numerous Orthopaedic Surgeons for an appointment without any luck as many were fully booked. I finally found one in the City and rushed to his office. Upon examination he diagnosed my injury as trochanteric bursitis and proceeded to administer a cortison injection in the affected area. Immediately I felt relief from the symptoms and thought it would be the end of it. He then gave me the devastating news that I shouldn’t compete in the Gun Run and booked me off from running for six weeks with physiotherapy to strengthen my weak hip.
I walked out of his consulting room shattered, my hopes for running the race crushed and I couldn’t see the silver lining in this situation. Receiving this news during the week of my party placed a damper on my mood realising I had to come to terms with this development. Yet I couldn’t – I bawled my eyes out and called Neil who tried to assure me everything would be okay and we would get through this together.
When one realises you have an injury and the goal that you worked so hard to attain is out of reach it is hard to understand the process, let alone accept your fate. Running is my passion, it is what I clung to when I was overcoming my alcoholism, it has always been my saving grace. For it to be snatched away from me again, albeit for 6 weeks, felt like my body was failing me and my goals were unreachable.
It was incredibly difficult to break the news to my training friends as it hurt so much talking about it. I also found it hard to remain positive and to be my happy self when I couldn’t get the endorphins pumping as I wasn’t allowed any cardio. It seemed like I was sinking into a deep dark hole and I didn’t know how to get back on track.
What made it harder to deal with was that the race took place this past weekend. I knew it was going to be tough to handle, but I didn’t expect it to be quite as punishing. My husband and friend ran the race and as much as I wanted to support them, I couldn’t find the courage to cheer them on from the side lines or shut off my emotions. I was glad they’d done it, they trained hard and deserved the victory. But it was hard to be joyful as that was my goal and one I couldn’t achieve.
Now in hindsight, I did not allow myself enough time for my body to grow accustomed to the kilometres and the training I was pushing it through soon after my operation. It needed time and space to condition itself, I should have followed a conservative training program from the onset – but I didn’t and now I am paying the price through injury.
I believe that every setback we encounter teaches us a lesson. I’ve tried to comprehend what mine is and I guess it boils down to patience and listening to what my body is saying. I’ve had to downscale my goals and open my mind to other possibilities of building a stronger me.
I will never give up on my running goals, it might take me longer to get there, but I know I will succeed, maybe not in my time but in God’s time.