I’m a runner who can’t run. I’m angry, disappointed, and suffering an unexpected identity crisis. What do you mean I can’t run? What does that make me? Why am I here? I’m not alone, according to researchers and sports psychologists, most injured athletes experience depression following injury.
I’ve had a long string of running injuries that have slowed me down over the last five years. Piriformis syndrome, sports hernias (both legs), IT band tightness, bursitis, blisters, and other ailments have come and gone. None of them kept me on the sidelines for more than a few days at a time. But, this time is different.
Ignorance is Bliss Until You Can’t Run
The soreness first appeared in my left heel 4 to 6 weeks ago. It started as an uncomfortable pain directly under my heel that showed up after hill workouts and races. I iced my heels when the pain warranted immediate attention, but didn’t think too much about it.
Then, about 3 weeks ago it started bothering me in the mornings. I’d wake up to a tender heel that hurt to walk on. But, it would slowly go away as I went about my morning routine. This should have set off alarm bells, but instead I ramped up my mileage by 15% and began running 50+ miles per week.
Throughout the next week, I started every run with sore heels that would eventually warm up and feel fine until I finished my workout. I felt like I could run through this injury just like the others before it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Last Saturday, I ran five 1-mile repeats at 6:15 pace followed by a 11-mile long run on Sunday. That’s when things really hit the fan. I was out on a long loop miles from home and the pain that usually went away after a few miles, severely intensified.😬 By the time I arrived home, I realized I was dealing with a serious injury.
I hobbled around the house that night like the Hunchback from Notre Dame. The next morning I could barely stand. That’s when it dawned on me that I might need to take a few days off.
Here’s what happened since that time:
Monday – off (researched plantars fasciitis)
Tuesday – pathetic attempt to fool myself by running .6 miles in pain, Wrote this post
Wednesday – biked 20 miles
Thursday – biked 22 miles
Friday – pathetic attempt #2 to fool myself by running .5 miles in pain, started wearing a homemade plantars fasciitis sock at night
Saturday – biked 30 miles
Sunday – off
Monday – Writing this post as catharsis after pathetic attempt #3
All of the smart people in my life have told me to go see a doctor. So, I’ve decided to continue icing, rolling, wrapping, stretching, etc. for another week. If things aren’t better by next Sunday, I’ll make an appointment.
Biking as Therapy for Injured Runners
As you may have guessed, I’m stressing out and going a bit crazy not being able to run. I’ve started biking to get my endorphin fix and stay active. I’m hoping that biking will help me maintain at least some of my running fitness.
Biking is a great cross training activity for runners because it targets a runner’s complimentary muscles groups. Runners have notoriously unbalanced musculature. We usually have puny quads and huge hamstrings.
Having strong quads, calves, and glutes will result in faster times, better hill strength, and reduced risk of injury. But, you have to put in the effort. A leisurely spin won’t do it. Attack the hills, do some speed intervals, and ride for at least the same length of time you would normally spend running.
Pros of Biking vs. Running
- You can cover a ton of distance and expand your training routes
- You can go really fast
- You can carry your phone, water bottles, and other stuff on your bike frame
- No pounding, no stress on certain running injuries
- You can wear cool gear and track your pace in miles per hour
Cons of Biking vs. Running
- It’s really scary to ride with traffic at high speeds
- You need to worry about flat tires and bike maintenance
- Pedestrians and cars still don’t see you, but your moving even faster
- Potholes, sticks, and gravel can spell disaster in a split second
- Saddle is a real pain in the a**