For almost 18 months, I had been struggling with plantar fasciitis, I was training up 10 times a week and spending 40+ hours a week on my feet – it was no wonder that I couldn’t get it to come right. My body had changed the way I walked and ran to compensate for the strain, and it ended up causing even more issues. By mid 2017, after hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars spent seeing a physio weekly, I came to the realisation that I just need to rest and heal. I decided there would be no more races for the year. I was committed, I even sold my running watch to be sure that even if I continued to run, it would be easy, no recording and comparing split times. A couple of weeks into taking it easy, our run crew CRS was asked to be part of a social media campaign with Nike, about breaking through barriers for the Auckland half or full marathon. They were offering all the gear, training sessions and support needed to chase down a personal best, how could I say no?
Race day arrived, the day after the last day of semester and less than a week before my final exams, I was burnt out. I knew I had no business toeing that start line. The first 5kms I was on track for a PB, I was hitting all my splits, it was muggy but I knew I had it if I stayed hydrated and focused. Then it all came crumbling down, my plantar fasciitis was aggravated and it was setting off my sciatic nerve pain. By 6km I was reduced to walking more than running, I watched my goal get further and further away. Once it was out of reach, I was relieved, I focused on having fun and enjoying the course, all this misery was nearly over! Once the 1km mark was in sight, I gave it everything I had, I wanted to cross that line looking strong. I saw all my friends cheering for me which should’ve been exciting, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of another spectacular public failing (like I did earlier in the year at Coatesville half).
I made it through exams, went back to working in retail and promised my physio I would take the summer off to heal. Almost 3 months into the running hiatus, I was texting and walking when I stood in a pothole, I heard a horrendous popping noise and I couldn’t bear weight on it for the first few steps. If this isn’t a lesson in mindfulness and focusing on the task at hand, I don’t know what is. I immediately text my physio and said “hey, I think I just broke my ankle, not sure though”. She offered me an appointment in the afternoon and I declined, I had too much to do. Less than 3 hours later, my ankle was twice the size and beginning to bruise, so I headed straight to her. Good news, ankle wasn’t broken, bad news, sprains this bad can take months to heal. All of my joints are hypermobile, so because I wasn’t running, my ligaments were no longer strong enough to counter a force like this pothole. I was devastated. Another 6-8 weeks of no running. I could do this.
I worked on my ankle mobility and fielded questions from people asking if I still run. I was rapidly gaining weight, but trying to stay positive. I was finally allowed to run again and I got moving as fast as I could, after all, I was sure we were going to win that trip to LA and I didn’t want to be the most unfit person there. I struggled through the 10k and had to stop and stretch throughout, but I was excited for my next training cycle, I felt ready. On our last day in LA, during a group hike, I was talking about my road to recovery with my ankle and how happy I was to be back. I hadn’t even finished my sentence when I stood on the edge of a rock and rolled it again. I knew it was bad but we had less than 14 hours left on a trip of a lifetime… the show must go on. I was too scared to even assess the damage, we continued onto Runyon Canyon and Hollywood before embarking on the 20-hour trip home.
Back to square one, no running for another 6-8 weeks, strained ligaments and a possible fracture of the 5th metatarsal. Four weeks into this second hiatus, I fell getting out of the log flume at Rainbows End, yes you read that right. At least this time it was funny, and that’s all I can ask for at this point in my life. This was the third sprain of the year, which meant I was now being forced to wear a brace on my ankle for every waking minute of the next month. What began as an 8 week break from half marathon training became 6 months, and it’s really taken its toll. I struggled to set goals and figure out what to do with all this free time and energy. I had underestimated just how much I relied on the structure of training as well as the physical benefits to manage my mental health. Most of my community and sense of belonging for the past 5 years has been rooted in running, and I’ve felt really lost without it.
Tomorrow is the first day I’m allowed to run again, I’m both nervous and excited. It’s daunting to feel like you’re starting over, and I know that the only time I really love running is when I’m fit and chasing down goals. So I’m expecting the misery and frustration to linger a bit longer, but at least there is now light at the end of the tunnel again. None of my running clothes fit me, but I’ve got three new pairs of shoes waiting to finally hit the pavement. Let the chaffing begin!