Now that summer’s coming to an end, I guess it’s about time for me to write the post I’ve been dreading for weeks. Anyone who has visited this blog before knows I’ve been dealing with old injuries and new injuries for the past two years. Several months ago, I found myself in a good place. The Plantar Fasciitis was manageable, my runs were getting stronger and easier, and I truly felt like I was on an upward trajectory. Not wanting to encounter another injury for a very long time, I researched and embraced a more minimalist approach to my running. I bought minimalist shoes and started wearing those 24/7. I started weaning myself out of my orthotics. And most significantly, I joined the Spaulding National Running Center to help me transition safely and fully out of my cushioned stability shoes.
The Running Center opened recently near where I live in Boston. It’s headed up by Irene Davis, PhD, a very well known expert in bio-mechanics and a strong proponent of running barefoot. The program works like this: Your first visit is an hour long, or longer. You do a bunch of strength tests and run on the treadmill both barefoot and shod, while they video tape you. About a week later, they send you a full analysis of your running gait and strength tests and make recommendations for a safe transition into minimalist running. Mine started with a couple weeks of strengthening therapy with a physical therapist, as well as continuous testing of my PF to make sure I wasn’t aggravating that. Then they started the gait re-training portion when I started to run on the treadmill barefoot. This part of the program lasts for 3 weeks. They ask you to commit to going in 3 times a week for 3 weeks. It’s a very condensed program because they don’t allow you to run outside of their offices for those 3 weeks — they only want you running under their supervision.
It all made sense and I was gung ho to get started and move forward with my minimalist running. The first 2 weeks went okay. They started me with running just 5 minutes. That was enough to seriously wake up my calf muscles. And quite honestly, they hurt the entire 2 weeks. Some times were worse than others, but they always hurt. The therapists continuously monitor your pain and soreness and adjust the program accordingly. But on the third week, my original injury (the PF in my right foot) flared up and I had to skip a scheduled appointment. I went to the next appointment and casually mentioned that I had been having some pain on the top of my left foot. They said I should halt the running until that cleared up. I went home and googled the symptoms and my heart just sank. Everything pointed to a metatarsal stress fracture. Though there is some controversy about whether shod runners or barefoot runners experience stress fractures more often, it seems to be widely accepted that stress fractures are a common injury for those transitioning to minimalist running too quickly. Your body quite simply can’t adapt to the new stresses and it breaks down. That’s what happened to me.
That was over 8 weeks ago and I haven’t been able to run since then. After the first 4 weeks, I went to a doctor that the folks at the Running Center recommended to me. He didn’t take x-rays. He didn’t suggest an MRI. But he did tell me I could start doing the elliptical again and see how that felt. My foot felt better, so a week or so after my appointment with him I did the elliptical. I could only go for about 15 minutes before the bottom of my foot started hurting. So I halted all activity again. Then I tried a short jog/walk session and that hurt it too. After a week with it still hurting, I went to a podiatrist who took an x-ray, told me I have a 4th metatarsal stress fracture and she doesn’t like the way it’s healing so she put me in a walking cast for 3 weeks. I go back on September 6th to see how it’s healing and see if I can resume any kind of activity.
So how do I feel about all of this? Defeated. Truly. I’m frustrated. I’m discouraged. I feel like I was trying to do everything right… seeking guidance and care from running experts and trusting that would keep me injury free. Now I’ve lost the entire summer from running and have no idea when I’ll be able to run again. Not to mention the financial investment I made with the care I was receiving (a large portion was not covered by insurance).
I’ve never had a stress fracture before, but I have been injured and I know my pattern… I feel sorry for myself for awhile. Then I start doing crazy research on how to get better. Eventually I accept it and do other things until I can run again. I guess that’s where I’m at right now. I’m trying to embrace other activities. I’m doing some of the yoga poses that I can. I’ve tried to swim as much as possible. But mostly I’m getting pretty un-fit and just waiting until I can run again.
I’ve been MIA on Twitter because it’s too hard to read posts from all my running Twitter friends. The last 3 issues of Runner’s World and Running Times are collecting dust until I have it in me to read them. I just want to be among the running again. I know I’ll get there. But “the only way out is through” so I just have to take it day by day and wait until I get the thumbs up to try a short run again.
My apologies for the long post. I don’t particularly like writing about injuries or negative feelings, but I know that misery loves company and I’ve learned a great deal about my injury by reading other blog posts, so I figured I’d share my story too. I have a ton of information on stress fractures that I won’t bore you with here, but feel free to send me an email if you want more info! Until then…. happy running and I’ll keep you posted on my recovery.
– Signing off with my new Best Friend (fondly referred to by my friends as ‘Das Boot’)