Click Click. The Sound Of My Crutches.
I listened to the sound my new crutches made against the linoleum floor as I wobbled my way across urgent care. I’d never used crutches before. They were harder to maneuver than I thought they would be. I was uncomfortable. I was humbled. And I was so, so sad.
After a few years of training diligently for ultramarathons, I was finally finding a groove. Things were falling into place. I’d just run a strong race at the Sean O’Brien 50 miler in Malibu, and I was stoked. My coach and I had worked hard to get me to this point. I was making headway, I was feeling fast, I was feeling strong…until…I wasn’t.
Three days prior to receiving that pair of unwelcome crutches, I DNS’d the Leona Divide 50 miler. For weeks, a dull pain in my right hip had stubbornly remained in spite of rest and cross-training, and I made the heartbreaking decision to not show up to the start line morning of. Truth be told, I was still tempted to try to run anyway…but how could I ask my body to run 50 miles when I couldn’t even get out of bed without hurting? I knew well enough that this pain was no ordinary niggle. So I pulled the plug. And it was awful. I’m much better at pushing my limits than acknowledging them, which is an attribute that often plays to my advantage in ultras. However, in certain situations, it has the potential to cause damage. Situations like this one.
Fast forward to me staring blankly at the picture of my MRI. Along the bottom edge of my femoral neck, I can see a ghostly white halo and a small fissure. Stress fracture. Two words no runner ever wants to hear, especially when it’s regarding your femur. From the moment of the diagnosis, orders came rushing in like a tidal wave: more crutching, more labs, more scans, no cross-training, no lifting, no working. My everyday life lies in ruins all around me. A reminder that, really, all we control are our responses to our circumstances.
I grieved. Oh did I grieve. For delayed dreams, lost time, lost trust in my body, lost independence. But I ride the rollercoaster of my emotions unabashedly. I know I must, rather than stifling them. It is better for me to wade slowly through my feelings than to stay stuck and drown in them. The moment I accepted what was happening and chose to look beyond the circumstances and into myself instead…that was the moment rebuilding started.
I couldn’t start with the physical, but I could start with the mental. The thought processes. The mindset. I could quit because of the hand I’d been dealt, or I could change the way I play the game. I learned it is a choice to do the things you can do within the confines of your situation. It is also a sometimes difficult choice that has to be renewed daily. Some days I succeed boldly and confidently. Other days, my family and friends have to forcibly pull me out of the mental muck. I lean heavily into the support around me, which is difficult and messy at times. But we’re not meant to go it alone in this life. The good ones in yours will be happy to help. Reach out. Later, you can return the assist.
The sound of my crutches is not a sound I hear anymore. The crutches sit in the back of my closet, collecting dust. My fracture is healed. I’m rebuilding strength to get back to running in the next month or so. I’m also still processing all the lessons I’ve learned. Running injuries are devastating…but also incredibly valuable. If we’re willing to accept what they can teach us, we WILL come back stronger and more resilient. If you’re going through an injury right now, I see you. I encourage you to choose to reframe, adapt, and grow. It’s not easy, but it is worth it. These seasons often open doors you never would have unlocked otherwise, and they serve an important purpose on your path-stay the course.