The past couple of months saw all my 2020 races steadily cancelled one by one, including finally the ones I had been looking forward to the most, the Chicago and New York marathons. With no need to carry on with the long distance training runs, I had instead been working on various self-appointed running challenges over the summer, including Run around the World, and following a sub-2hr half marathon training plan. The training plan had been going pretty well, so on the final day, I set off for what I hoped would be an enjoyable Sunday long run.
Armed with my shiny new Garmin watch to monitor my pace, things were going really well as I passed the 10 mile point on track for around a 2hr02 half-marathon time. Unfortunately, it was at that moment that I caught my shoe on an upturned crack in the pavement and went flying. I put my left hand out to break my fall (a bad idea as it turned out!) and skidded along the tarmac on my knees and other arm for what felt like a really long time before coming to a stop. Weirdly, it didn’t hurt at all at the time (some kind of shock reaction?), and I told the concerned runners who had stopped to help that I was fine, and set off on the long walk back to the main road to get picked up. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later at lunch, that everything started to ache, and I hadn’t been able to stop my leg from bleeding, that I reluctantly acknowledged that I might need to get myself looked at. After a few hours and a few x-rays in A&E, it transpired I had fractured my elbow from the impact of hitting the ground, and also ended up with a sprained wrist, sprained ankle and some fairly nasty scrapes to my knees which warranted a tetanus vaccination. All that from tripping over!
The next morning it really hit home that I had done myself a bit of damage. Everything hurt! It was a real struggle just looking after the children and myself for the day, walking around with my damaged knee and ankle was very painful, and having my dominant arm strapped up in a sling made me realise how hard it is doing everything right-handed! Preparing food for the kids was a bit of a challenge one-handed, and I couldn’t figure out how to tie my hair back for days! Driving to work was out of the question for a couple of weeks and running seemed impossible any time soon.
But slowly, bit by bit, of course things did start to get better. Walking became gradually easier and I could start to straighten out my arm and hold things in my left hand again. After two weeks, it was time to try some running.
The first run after my injury was very tentative. I hobbled round my local park, frustratingly feeling like I couldn’t swing my arm or leg through their full range of motion. But more than that, there was something I hadn’t experienced before, a distinct fear of tripping again. I spent most of the run looking down at my feet, feeling paranoid about catching my shoes in every bump in the path. I also felt incredibly out of breath after two weeks of inactivity, and traipsed back home after 3 slow km, frustrated at myself.
One of the reasons I took up running was because it seemed such a safe sport. I was honestly really surprised that I could have ended up feeling so awful just from a fall! The whole experience left me feeling rather fragile and useless, and with lingering worries that I had done some permanent damage and would never quite get back to my best. Of course, time and patience are great healers, and even now just a couple of weeks further down the line, with the help of a holiday and some lovely runs with friends to take my mind off things, I’m already feeling a lot better.
Huge sympathies and healing vibes to all my runner friends struggling with injuries right now. I know lots of you have had injuries much worse than mine, putting you out of action for months, and I have a huge respect for anyone who perseveres through their recovery to get back to running. Wishing us all a happy and healthy second half to the year.