Back in January I joined a running club and started a 15-week half marathon training plan. Running club met twice a week, with one of those days being a long run. Being a part of a group made me push myself and helped me stay motivated. I signed up for a Mother’s Day Half Marathon. Completing a half marathon has been a dream of mine for some time, and running one on Mother’s Day seemed perfect. I welcomed the challenge and loved how I felt after a run. I think I might like running just for the rush of completing a run.
Two weeks into the training plan we had our first hill run. I had to take D with me since I tried to get my runs done while my husband was at work (with the exception of the days I ran with the running club). This was a mistake. Coming downhill I landed too hard while trying to keep the stroller from going too fast. I could feel a jarring in my bones and knew I was going to be in a world of hurt after. Not wrong, my shins were in terrible pain for the remainder of the week.
The following week my shins still hurt, but the pain wasn’t enough to keep me from running. I continued to run while trying desperately to keep my shins happy. I tried ice, foam rolling, calf compression sleeves, yoga, calf exercises, massage, skipping my hill runs…nothing seemed to work. It got to the point where my shins hurt just walking around, especially going up and down stairs. When sitting on the floor, I would wince as D would come rushing over to sit in my lap; blaring pain would welcome me when he’d sit on my shins.
About five weeks into my training plan, I began to worry that it might be a stress fracture rather than just shin splints, so I went to see a sports medicine physician. Not surprisingly, an x-ray showed no evidence of a stress fracture (it takes a while for a stress fracture to show up on x-ray). The doctor said the only way to really know for sure was to do an MRI, but that the treatment for a stress fracture was the same for shin splints – rest. He said it typically takes around 6 weeks for them to heal, but if I wanted to continue running then I could just take an anti-inflammatory and run through the pain.
Determined to run my half marathon, I continued running and would take ibuprofen after my runs. One night while sitting on the couch with my legs elevated and an ice pack on my shins, my husband said, “If running hurts so much, why don’t you just stop?” But I couldn’t. Not until the seventh week of my training plan. After a 6-mile long run I woke up the next morning with hip pain. I ran a hill run the day after, not worrying about my pace. After that, I took a few days off from running and went to get adjusted by my friend who is also a chiropractor. The shooting hip pain had downgraded into what felt like a pulled muscle. It hurt, but it was manageable as long as I didn’t do any activities that aggravated it, like squatting, jumping, or running.
I was at a crossroads. My shin splints already felt better after just a week off from running. They only hurt when I put pressure on them or did high-impact activities. Was continuing to train for my half marathon worth being in pain for another 8 weeks? The decision was not easy. I had been ignoring my body yelling at me and finally decided to listen to it. My vision of crossing the finish line on Mother’s Day began to fade and I knew I had to call it quits.
It has been almost three weeks since my last run and, as hard as it was, I am fully confident that I made the right decision. My pulled muscle pain is gone and my shins only begin to give me grief if I do anything high-impact. I have had to modify all of my cardio workouts to be low-impact, which is super frustrating but well worth it. I can play with D now without having to wobble about in pain.
D and I have been getting out on walks several days a week with our dog, and I have been incorporating more yoga into my week. I have found that although I miss running, there are other things I can do in the meantime to keep my mind and body healthy. I can slow down and appreciate what my body does for me and treat it with more respect, rather than expecting it to just shut up when it’s trying to tell me something.
Learning to appreciate slowing things down
Having to stop running was really difficult. I had to work through a mixture of sadness, disappointment, and frustration for a few days, but came out the other side of it by looking at the positives. I’ve made the best of not being able to run the half marathon by deciding to still go and participate in the 5K. I may have to run/walk it, but my husband and D might be doing it alongside me which would be a wonderful way to spend Mother’s Day morning. I know that not being able to run is only temporary. I know that there will be other half marathons. I know that when I run again, I will enjoy it so much more because I won’t be in pain. Just because I can’t run right now, it doesn’t mean I have to give up. Running will still be there waiting for me when I’m ready, and someday in the future, I know that there will be a half marathon finish line for me to cross.