Here we go again. Another battle in The Running Wars.
In one corner, we have me and my love for running, my desire to stick with my training plan and run a strong race next month, and my newfound joy at having running friends to log miles with.
In the opposite corner, we have my body, which is using every weapon at it’s disposal — the ball of foot, my heel, my glute and, now, my knee, to get me to stop.
And right now, as I pop ibuprofen every three hours and sit with ice on my knee, I can’t help but feel like I’m losing the battle.
This latest skirmish came out of the blue. I ran 14 miles (my longest run ever!) last Sunday, which was rough — since I was coming right off of 10 days of vacation — and my muscles were sore but I felt okay. This was followed by a rest day, a spin class, and 4 miles on Wednesday.
But on Thursday morning — my 40th birthday, ironically — I woke up with pain in and around the kneecap of my right (surgically repaired) knee. Another piece of irony: in all my years of running, my knees have never given me any issues. Until now.
It hurts when I walk. It hurts if I have to squat down to get something. And, as I discovered on Thursday afternoon when I tried an easy run and only lasted five minutes, it hurts when I run.
Ibuprofen and ice help….temporarily. So I’m doing the only thing left in my arsenal: rest. Which is so hard for me, knowing my half marathon is only four weeks away and I don’t feel ready. But then again, I know running on an injured knee is a surefire way to do more damage, and take me out of my race entirely.
So I am retreating. Body: 1, Jess: 0.
How did the battle begin? It was the fall of 2014, when the burning pain in the ball of my left foot began during a half marathon. It improved, but that winter I did something to my piriformis that sidelined me for a bit, so I decided against running a spring half marathon in 2015, focusing instead on getting faster at shorter distances.
Yet during that time, the pain in the ball of my foot returned, promoting my first visit to a podiatrist and my first cortisone shot, which, sadly, helped. Although I seemed to exhibit all the signs of Morton’s neuroma, the x-rays came back clear and, based on his exam, my doctor was suspicious of a possible Achilles or nerve issue, along with extremely tight calves.
So I started on an intense foam rolling program which did help for awhile, although the burning pain would come back periodically.
A photo posted by Jessica (@sanemommy) on
And as I started training in late summer for my sole 2015 half marathon — Smuttynose — I felt great. I could run without any aches or pain, my feet felt great, and I was feeling really confident about my chances of breaking two hours.
And then my body threw me a total curveball: pneumonia.
No, I didn’t know on race day that I had pneumonia (that diagnosis would come a few days later), but I was a hot mess that morning. Yet somehow I managed to get a PR, even if I fell short of my sub-2 goal by 5 seconds.
As I shared at the time, it took awhile — more than a month — to recover from pneumonia. But when I was finally able to lace my running shoes again, my body whipped out a new weapon: the heel of my right foot.
I spent the fall of 2015, hobbling around, going back to the podiatrist, trying heel inserts in my shoe…and taking a painful month-long rest from running. With plantar fasciitis being a secondary issue, my podiatrist sent me to physical therapy for help with my mechanics.
The PTs I worked with were great and immediately zeroed in on my weak core (thanks, kiddos). I tried soooo hard to keep up with my PT routine at home. But, God, it was so hard at times to find even five minutes to squeeze in my exercises. Yes, getting back on my running feet was a major priority, but so are my kids. And sleep.
But it must have worked, because my heel pain dissipated, only to be replaced by the return of the pain in the ball of my foot. And know my knee.
So what do you do when you love running….but your body doesn’t?
I’m honestly at a loss. I cross-train. I foam roll. Sure, I guess I could do more things like yoga and pilates and my PT core work, but I don’t think that’s the silver bullet. I know I have funky mechanics, but I’m been told over and over again that tweaking my mechanics will do harm than good.
Do I find a running coach? Someone who can watch me run and help with my form? It seems like an extravagant expense for someone who is a recreational runner.
I don’t know.
Right now, I’m just trying to take things day by day and remember my larger goal: to run Boston’s Run to Remember in my grandfather’s memory. Sure, running a sub-2 would be awesome, but I just want to finish the race for him and the many people who donated to the Alzheimer’s Association on my behalf.
I know people who don’t run are reading this and thinking, one, that I sound insane, and two, Well, duh, why don’t you just stop running?
But I’m not ready to wave the white flag just yet.