When your goal vanishes due to injury

21 Mar

I received some bad news from my physiotherapist yesterday; no half-marathon in May.

Let me give you a little background to the story. After my first half-marathon in October last year I was very quick to sign up for more races as races are my ultimate motivation for running. I registered for the 5km cours de l’escalade in December 2012, the Geneva half-marathon in May 2013, and the Berlin Marathon in September 2013. I decreased my training during November and December to around 10km per week but at the same time increased my cross-training by adding a spinning class and pump class at the gym. My training program for the half-marathon wasn’t due to start until January 1 so I treated myself to an easy few months.

So what happened?

Mistake #1 : The Need for Speed

I went out on January 1 too hard and too fast. I had made myself a time goal for the half-marathon, 1h45m, and had planned my training program (based on the FIRST Half-Marathon Program) accordingly. My first intervals session strained my calf muscles more than any of my previous training sessions had done before. Why? My new training program was set at a higher intensity than I had trained at previously and after two months of “taking it easy” I was simply not ready.

Mistake #2: The “No Pain, No Gain” Motto

I had sore calf muscles. No big deal, I thought, I’ve had sore calf muscles before. The training continued. At the same intensity.

After two weeks of training there was no improvement in my legs. So I dropped the intense interval sessions and maintained the tempo and long runs at slightly slower speeds. Another two weeks of training went by and there was still no improvement in my calf muscles and my shins were starting to hurt so I scheduled an appointment with a physiotherapist who works at the Swiss Institute of Sport in Geneva. She promptly told me that I had shin splints and went to work kneeding my muscles. For those who have been to a physiotherapist before will understand the pain they can inflict; it was a level of pain that I have never before experienced and I imagine it must feel something similar to being impaled. During this painful ordeal she congratulated me on reducing my training to only the slower runs as this has less impact on the shins than the sprints.

I was sent home with some calf stretches to do each day and advised that I could continue with the slower runs as well as the cross-training.

Mistake #3: No Limits

I progressed well for the next few weeks. My legs were on the mend; not perfect but definitely improved. So I tackled a 20km run. I took it slowly (around 6 mins per km) but I was in pain when I arrived back home. That run was now 3 weeks ago and the last run I have been able to do.

All it takes is one run, one kilometer too far, or one minute too long to cause an injury. And it’s devastating when it happens.

The Healing Begins

When I spoke to my Physio this week, she advised me that I should not aim to run the half-marathon in May and I must wait for the pain to cease completely before attempting another run. In that moment, I saw my motivation for running vanish. I saw my goal of completing another half-marathon this year vanish. And worst of all, I saw my goal of running a full marathon this year get a little more unachievable.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t always enjoy the longer runs and often struggle with motivation (particularly during the Winter months) but I was completely shattered when I heard this news. I didn’t realise how much I actually enjoyed running until I was no longer able to do it.

13883201-runner-feet-running-on-road-closeup-on-shoe-woman-fitness-sunrise-jog-workout-welness-conceptI have certainly not given up on my Marathon goal but I am back to square one. I know that I have a long, slow, tough road ahead of me but I am willing to do it and even more determined than I was before. I may not be able to run today because of the pain but there’s always tomorrow.

I hope my story aids as a warning to those who are thinking about pushing the boundaries without proper training and recovery.

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