Well, to be honest, it’s more than a bump or a pothole. It’s more like a sink-hole. The road just fell away.
I am supposed to be running my first half-marathon on Saturday, the Indy Mini. I’m not going to be doing it though. I’ve been having a lot of shin pain post run and, after trying rest, ice, compression, and elevation without any relief, I made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. We did x-rays and they appeared to show a stress fracture in my left tibia. I had a MRI on Friday which will confirm this, but the doctor didn’t seem to have any doubts about what he saw on the x-ray.
That’s sucky enough, but no, it gets worse. This fracture, unlike the ones that runners typically get, is on the tension side of the bone. The conservative treatment option – rest for 4-6 weeks – is almost never successful. The treatment which does work is having a metal rod installed in your leg. The doctor’s response, when he told me this, was that hey, no one is paying you to run. You can swim, you can bike. I’m not sure why I didn’t explode at this point, save that I was still processing the news.
If running was just about fitness then sure, I could switch sports. But, for me, running is about much more than physical fitness. It’s about mental fitness too. I call it my mobile meditation – when I’m on a run, all I’m thinking about is running. I’m not worrying about what happened at work that day, or dreading what might happen tomorrow, or plotting a story. I’m thinking about how my body feels, how far I’ve gone, how much farther I want to go. On bad days I’m giving myself pep talks or making deals to go a bit further. On good days, I am reveling in the feeling of strength and power. I’ll admit, I could probably get that same benefit from another sport. But what I can’t get is the other part of the mental fitness.
A big part of my running is racing. Racing, for me, is not about winning or placing (which doesn’t happen). It’s about running a best time. That means setting a goal for myself, coming up with a plan to reach it, and then going after it. I won’t get that from swimming or biking (there are no races). I need that to motivate me to get out there, to do that run when I’m tired or my head aches or maybe I just have had a crappy day and want to curl up on my couch and hide from the world. But there’s more to it than just that. I have met so many interesting people at races, from the girl walking her first 5k who high-fived all of us runners as we passed her on the return to the woman out running a 5k while in the midst of chemo for breast cancer (who also high-fived me as I passed her on my way back out for the second half of the 10k I was doing that day). When we’re all lining up to wait for the race to start, we’re all united and wishing each other well. Maybe running is the only thing we have in common but at that moment, it bonds us.
The bottom line is, giving up on running is just not an option.
UPDATE: The MRI does confirm the stress fracture. The soonest I can see an orthopedic surgeon is May 27th. I am on a waiting list for an earlier appointment and will call to check in on that regularly.