It is one of those blog posts that I am finding very difficult to write. In fact, it has taken me a couple of weeks to get to this stage.
The Valencia Marathon itself deserves a separate blog post in its own right, I am now trying to focus on what came after the most-awaited event in 2014 and how I have been trying to survive and maintain my sanity in the past 5-6 weeks.
I am a different person now. A tired and desperate shell that needs to be filled with purpose, hope, and renewed strength to go on somehow. And maybe one day I will be able to resurrect myself – or perhaps I will be such a different person then that I will no longer want to be who I used to be, maybe I will find something that I will find more attractive, more challenging, more interesting. I am redefining myself.
So what is this psychobabble about? The short version of the story is that I developed a foot injury straight after running the Valencia Marathon. According to my physiotherapist, this is not something that is the direct result of running the marathon, but something that has been developing over time and happened to just culminate at this point in time. This is the nastiest, worst injury I have ever known in my life, it crept up on me taking me off guard and I even though I am not even in pain but merely having a niggling sensation in my foot, I am finding it mentally debilitating, the fact that it is taking an eternity to heal and it is preventing me from doing the things that I enjoy the most, the things that make me feel alive, confindent and energised – running and walking, things that I can do outside. Running has been a major coping mechanism for me over the past few years to get me through the grottiest and most stressful times of the year.
The name of the beast is posterior tibial tendonitis (quite a mounthful, I know, but which I can now say with ease!), which in my case is likely to have been caused by the fact that I am an overpronator with inward rolling knees and not strong enough glutes that stabilise the hips and everything underneath, and thus having placed that tendon under undue strain, who knows how long for, in the absence of good stabilising action during running.
Those of you who know what being put out of action means for a runner, you will be familiar with the full psychological cycle and boy have I been through all stages of it! Starting with denial/ignorance (”ah, this niggle at my ankle will surely go away in a day or two, it is only natural to have some pain after running a marathon”), hoping for and even praying for the miracle of healing (how ridiculously pointless that was, I can see that now!), acceptance of the fact that I may be facing something quite serious here and which prompted me to reach out for help (now seeing a physio), anger (“Why is this happening to me? Why now? Why God won’t heal me when I prayed with all my heart for healing and all the signs were pointing towards that it was going to happen?!”), hopelessness (“I surely will never be able to run again, I am a cripple”) and on better days, even trying to think positively about this (“I will get through this and this will only make me a better and stronger runner”).
I guess things may be slightly different from a coping perspective if I had not been brought to the brink of a mental breakdown at work due to persistent overload over the past 4 months which is the busiest time of the year for us. I am certain if I had had to stay at work a single day longer before going on my Christmas holiday, I may have been pushed over the edge. I think I will set some new boundaries for myself in the New Year because I am fully intending to live life and not just be in survival mode all the time.
Anyways, I am on holiday now and ‘recharging my batteries and ‘redefining myself”, my fitness goals and my priorities.
I have made a promise to myself that I will get through this somehow. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, right?
So here is my coping strategy for the journey ahead:-
1. I am not going to identify myself with the injury. It does not define me, I define myself.
2. I will not be ashamed reaching out for help. I will continue with my physio sessions and do my prescribed strenghtening exercises diligently – something I know I can hold on to. I will continue to draw on self-help resources and I do not feel weak because I admit that I need help.
3. I will explore different aspects of fitness. For example, I have discovered how to make smoothies with our Kenwood mixer (one of the most brilliant inventions!) and have really enjoyed experimenting with new healthy flavours. I think I may even have lost some weight because I have been trying to supplement a couple of meals a week with a power smoothie and I have cut down on junk food as well.
4. I will seek different types of challenges to be able to fuel my passion for fitness and different goals to work towards. For example, I have been visiting different classes in the gym (spinning, yoga etc.) which are great for variety and I have purchased Chalene Johnson’s PiYo home workout series. This is a brilliant low impact yet quite challenging workout that helps me work on my flexibility amongst other things.
5. I will take one day at a time and will not set any deadlines to be able to run again. I do not want that kind of pressure and I would only expose myself to even more bitterness and disappointment if I do not ‘deliver’ on time. I will do my best every day and my best is enough.
6. I will not stay angry. I was angry at myself, I was angry at God, I was angry at every runner I saw running whilst I cannot run. I realised that these feelings are not productive and will not help my recovery but only make me feel worse.
7. I will surround myself with positive thoughts. For example, things could be a lot worse. At the moment, I can do most kinds of movements, it is only running, long walks and high impact moves such as jumping I need to avoid but otherwise everything else is a goer. It is not as if my foot had been amputated or something, right?
8. I will focus on what I have control over, a choice about, and what I can do, not on what I cannot do. I am refusing to be a victim and am choosing to be actively doing something about the situation. Channeling my energy and time into things that are helping me. Such as the the physio exercises.
Although, having just said that, I cannot help but admit that as a result of this injury, I did realise a few things I may not have been conscious about before, so in that respect, there is definitely room for healing to happen beyond the physical realm.
- Running has become way too precious for me so that other things/people/God in my life ended up getting less of me than they would have duly deserved.
- I have probably placed too much value/importance on what running means to me – having just one thing to draw strength (mental/physical) and confidence from can be very dangerous, and leave me vulnerable, especially if these things can be lost/suspended e.g through physical injury.
So let’s see what the New Year holds for me. There is a song on my iPod which I used for running in the autumn – it is called “The Dark” by Boom Jinx and Meredith Call, and I have often identified with this song when I was going through difficult times in the past few months. The lyrics go like “You can go any place, no matter how low, I’m coming with you, I’m not afraid of the dark”. I like to think that God is with me throughout these testing times.