The Injury I May Have Needed

If my foot didn’t hurt, I would be typing an update on my training for the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon. I would be seeing the sunrise on the National Mall a few mornings per week, buying new running shoes (which I should probably do anyway), and planning a wintery ten mile run for Saturday. But my foot does hurt, and shows little-to-no sign of improvement, so here we are, talking about a running injury instead.

It happened on an easy Tuesday morning run.

Everything was normal, until I felt a sharp and sudden pain on the top of my right foot. I stopped to shake it out—as if that accomplishes anything—walked for a few steps, and then started to run again. The day before was essentially rest, we went climbing to do something outside our norm. This was just a slow, easy, low-stress run. I was just trying to get in forty minutes on my feet. I was just running around the neighborhood. I felt this weird shot of pain, and then couldn’t run anymore. I tried, to no avail. Eventually I gave up and hopped on a bike to get home.

I know what not to do.

Over ten years of distance running, I’ve only had two injuries. The first presented as a knee injury but was actually a problem with my right quad muscle. It was entirely my fault—I played soccer one week after running the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon, and could tell right away that I wasn’t fully recovered yet (i.e. was out of breath during our slow warm-up lap around the field). My quads felt worse after that game than they did after the marathon, which should have been my first clue that something was wrong. I tried to run through it for a few weeks, had two sports massages, foam rolled day and night, and then caved and scheduled a PT appointment. Two weeks after meeting with a PT, I was running again.

Last year I had a mild case of Plantar Fasciitis (PF) for months. It started with a three-day backpacking trip in Utah, hiking in ten-year-old shoes that fell apart along the way. I threw them out when we finished. My right foot was not as quick to forget. I used heel inserts, stretches and calf exercises, and slept in socks for the rest of the year. One day I realized my foot hadn’t hurt in a while, which must have meant all of those things worked. (Mild PF is mild enough that, yes, you feel it for a while and then realize one day that you don’t have any foot pain, and it’s lovely.)

I know to not ignore these things! I know now to figure out what’s going on as early as possible. Just schedule the appointment. Do it.

I scheduled an appointment and assumed the worst. 

I decided this injury could be a stress fracture. Of note: I have never had a stress fracture and have no idea what one might feel like. But, I’m a coach and I know the warning signs. I also know this felt much worse than PF. It didn’t feel like a muscle or tissue problem, it felt like my foot bones were protesting everything. (Much like I was, in life.) Also of note: I was a little embarrassed. As a running and nutrition coach, shouldn’t I know better?

To be honest, I was also perplexed. My training volume had not increased too much (or much at all), I haven’t lost weight, my eating has been normal, stress levels didn’t seem too high, and I had not been ignoring little pains with hopes they would go away. This was very sudden. Things were fine until they weren’t.

Maybe a stress fracture didn’t make sense, but I convinced myself I had one anyway. I scheduled my first appointment with a podiatrist and got the process started. I stopped running, and doing everything else. Because why not?

But, there is “nothing to hang a hat on.” 

Those are the Doc’s words, not mine. So, it doesn’t seem to be a stress fracture, but doesn’t seem to be anything else, either. Which leaves me with some new shoe inserts to try, a foot/ankle sleeve to wear during the day, and a compression sock on my right leg at night. It also leaves me here, on day 16 of no running or training.

And it’s not so bad.

Long-story-short: the pup still doesn’t sleep through the night, so neither do we! Yay. I’ve been sleeping in a little bit with her, because I can. I’ve been the pool a few times, because it doesn’t hurt and I have a LOT of room for improvement there. I’ve been climbing twice, for the same reasons. And I don’t really miss running.

If you had told me to just take 16 days off for good measure, I wouldn’t want to. If you had told me that after almost three weeks of not working out much, I wouldn’t feel super restless or crazy or like-I-WILL-BURST, I might not believe you. So what I know now is that I should be proactive and figure out what’s going on, but this time off also isn’t so bad. It’s actually kind of nice. I want to be active in some way, but it doesn’t have to be in a 30-miles-per-week way. Well, that’s also not an option right now. If you had said, maybe you just need some time off to make space for something else, I may have said, “I agree.”

Instead of running, I’m doing things that I’m not good at, which is exactly how most of these early entrepreneur days feel anyway. Right now, I like the space to explore. I need to remember how to build confidence and skill more than I need to know I can still run five miles in about forty-ish minutes. I’m not a pro, but I’m figuring out what I need to know. I’m not in a set routine, but I’m giving myself a little bit of structure. I’m not operating at full speed, because I know these things take time.


  1. February 2, 2017

    It’s amazing to that our body need both mental and physical. I love breaks from strenuous exercise. I don’t only catch up with friends and family but time to plan out my next adventure. I forget our bodies need their emotionally / mental breaks at the same time. High mileage or speed work take a toll on our bodies. When I was looking for a job because of stress at work, I noticed my running decreased and I needed more rest. Thankfully I listened to my body and didn’t keep pushing to run when I was worn down. I turned to restorative yoga to settle my emotional state. I forget how fun climbing is and that’s another great way to chill out from busy days!! We should catch up soon!

  2. February 6, 2017

    That sort of pain happened to me last year and the MRI and xrays came up negative but it ended up being tendonitis (which I hope in your case it’s not because it was a bitch)! Hope you are healing up!

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