It was at the end of a long run back in January when I suddenly found myself unable to walk. One step my foot was fine, the next I could hardly put any pressure down through my right side. I thought it might be cramp and so attempted to stretch it out…but two weeks later I was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the second metatarsal.
Fast forward 6 months and I began to run again. Around the July/August time I started with 5 x 1 minutes and progressed to 3 x 5 minutes before I realised that something just wasn’t right. My foot still hurt. The injury still hadn’t healed. More rest needed.
And now we’re here. After seeking professional care along side the care I had already been receiving, I began taking the first few tentative steps again. My week now consists of 3 easy runs, and will be the same for the next few months until my bone density increases sufficiently for me to train. Today I just want to talk about how it feels to run after 10 months from the perspective of a runner who has completed at least one run every week for four years with only a fortnight or so of complete rest each year.
Week 1: 5 minute runs
Now I enjoyed this week very much. My foot didn’t hurt, and nothing else did either. It was nice to get moving on the treadmill and after those five minutes I always thought I could have carried on for longer.
Week 2: 10 minute runs
10 minutes was starting to sound like a proper run. Except, it didn’t feel like a proper run. Back when I was in full training an easy run was bouncy, smooth and just well, easy. I always always felt like I could suddenly sprint or increase the pace if needed to, and my joints were never a problem. However, when I went out to the village green to start my run, it didn’t feel like the enjoyable experience I had been hoping for.
I had never felt so sluggish in my entire life. I was running at an incredible slow pace and was really struggling. My ankles were hurting, and then they would stop hurting and my leg would hurt, and then I would get a stitch because I had drunk too much water beforehand. I know I sound like a hypochondriac (although let’s be honest, I am the definition of a hypochondriac), but I can’t express how different it felt to when I was running similar distances back in July. For once running didn’t feel natural.
Week 3: 15 minute runs
Same same. Occasionally took a little break around halfway to stretch. Every run was a painful battle. Started to understand how some people genuinely don’t like running.
Week 4: 20 minute runs
So I’m currently in week four and have completed all three of my runs. My physio said it would all click into place at some point which made me feel much more positive about things. Despite this, my Monday and Wednesday runs were probably two of my worse runs yet. I think that one of the hardest things is the fact that I physically can’t increase my pace. It pretty much feels like running through treacle the whole time.
But Saturday’s run was a little different. To put it simply, I just felt a bit better. My joints and ankles still hurt but not as much, and I felt like I was able to slip into a more of a rhythm. I wouldn’t say that the run was enjoyable, but it wasn’t awful either. I know that I just need to keeping plugging away at it and that at some point I’ll forget what those first few weeks felt like, but that’s easier said than done. My aim is to return for the track season and over this winter I’m hoping to get back to fitness.
I apologise for this post being slightly negative: I just didn’t want to glorify the whole ‘getting back to running experience’. As with anything it’s going to take so much time to return, but I’m definitely willing to put that time in. I really do admire anyone who has suffered a longterm injury and has returned to running after months off because at the end of the day, it’s just very hard work.