Saturday, February 12, 2011

Aches and pains, part II

Constant pain is draining, physically and emotionally.

In 2006, I had a huge breakthrough, running a 1,500 meter race in 4 minutes and 6 seconds. It was a personal best and one of the best in the country that season.

But flying home I dropped some luggage on my right foot from the overhead bin. I thought my foot just had a bad bruise. But looking back at it, I think a bone must have cracked. It finally broke all the way through when I was racing a few weeks later in Switzerland. I remember it breaking when I started my kick in the home stretch. My adrenaline was flowing so I can’t say it hurt that much. But as soon as I stopped I couldn’t put any weight on the ball of my foot.

I called my coach in tears. It was the first time I couldn’t run through an injury. Pain is your body’s way of protecting you from permanent damage. I had ignored it and paid a big price.

That injury threw me off in more ways than you might think. To compensate for the injury, I changed my running form, which wreaked havoc on my body. I wound up having severe hip and knee pain on my left side.

The injury lingered and lingered so long that it started affecting my preparations for the 2008 Olympic Trials. On more than one occasion I didn’t think I would make the starting line. My coach says that year was his best coaching job because I could not do the training I would usually do because of the pain. It was the toughest mental race of my life. I was forced to focus on the strategy of finishing in the top three rather than going for a win. And I accomplished that goal, finishing third to grab an Olympic berth.

Pregnancy for many runners is really a blessing in more ways than one.

Although I ran until I was about six months along, it was short and comfortable. It allowed my body some much needed healing time. Strangely, even though I am in my mid-thirties, I am feeling young again. Other than a freak muscle pull a few month ago, I am injury and pain-free on all my runs. It’s nice to go out the door and enjoy every step of the way. Having been through years of pain, I don’t take it for granted.

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