Thursday, April 12, 2018

GUEST POST: Building Running Confidence After a Setback by Alissa

Whether you are a 6 minute miler or a 16 minute miler, injuries can rear their ugly little heads and happen to anyone. It's an honor to have Alissa here to share a bit of her story and remind us all that setbacks can lead to comebacks, that speed doesn't mean invincible, that comparison (even to our prior selves) can be dangerous, and that every step is a gift.

I started running in 2015 and my body has literally rejected it... twice. 

The first time was during my first half marathon (my first ever race!), when my right femur neck fractured at mile 12.5. I was able to finish the race in 1:58, hobbling to the finish line in the worst pain I had ever been in in my life (and I’ve given birth – twice!), thinking I pulled something serious because who would guess that they broke their hip?

During the half marathon where I broke my hip

I had surgery to place a compression screw in my right hip during May 2015 and had to take two months off from running completely. Around July I was able to get back into it, but was afraid to do much until November/ December. I ran my first 10K in December of 2015, finishing in 48 minutes and was super proud not only of the time but that I didn’t break again.

After that I was hooked on racing and began trying out all the different local races. I worked my way up to some pretty impressive PRs – a half marathon time of 1:27:56, a 10K time of 38:26, and a 5K time of 18:48. I was fast and I felt unstoppable. All of my runner friends kept saying I should go for a marathon, that I would make a great 3 hour marathoner, and I finally bit the bullet and set out to run my first marathon in April of 2017.

My first 5K post-op

During that round of training, I started having similar hip pain to what I had before, only on the left side, and had to stop running. My orthopedic surgeon sent me for an MRI and they found a labral tear in the left hip, and discovered I had impingement in both hips (meaning my ball/socket of my hip joint didn’t fit together correctly).

I was devastated. Instead of running my first marathon on April 9, 2017, I had another hip surgery to reshape my joint and fix the labral tear on April 10, 2017. I was on crutches for 6 weeks and spent a total of 5 months in 2017 not running at all.

Prior to the second surgery, I had qualified for and applied to run the NYC Marathon, finding out I was accepted the day before I received the news about surgery from my doctor. That became my goal – to get better in time to run the NYC Marathon. And I didn’t just want to run it 7 months post-op, I wanted to run it and qualify for the Boston Marathon.

I completed a 5K on crutches while recovering (with approval from my doctors of course)

When I was finally able to run again, it was hard. I had to do run walk intervals. I was slower than I had been in the past. I started running at the beginning of July and had my first half marathon in the middle of August. During that time my IT Band flared up, and I ended up having to walk some of the race. I finished in 1:50 – a far cry from my 1:27 just 9 months earlier. It hurt my spirit and I started to doubt myself – how was I going to run a marathon in 3 months?

My first Half Marathon post-op

It took me looking at running from a different point of view in order to gain my confidence back. 1:50 is an incredibly respectable half marathon time – why was I trying to beat the non-broken Alissa from the year before? I had been through so much and I still was able to run my first race post-op and finish it. I needed to be proud; I needed to live in the moment.

I looked at my training from a new perspective after that – just trying to be better than yesterday. Don’t compare yourself to the past – set new PRs and beat those. Move forward. In September, I ran a 5K in 19:40 and in October, I ran a half in 1:34. New PRs for a new hip. 6 months post-op, I was getting back to where I started and I was loving running again.

When it came time to toe the line in NYC in November, I was so nervous. I had trained for a 3:25 – but to be completely honest, I wasn't sure if I could do it. Will something bad happen? New York New York started playing and we were off to run the five boroughs. My training paid off and I hit my splits perfectly, smiling the entire way, finishing in 3:23:13.

Around Mile 22 of the NYC Marathon

I walked through the finishing corral half crying, half laughing. I’m sure I looked crazy, but I did it! I qualified for Boston 7 months post-op. I remember every moment of the day with such fondness. It was one of the most incredible experiences. 

Injuries are hard and setbacks suck. What I discovered from my journey is that sometimes you need something that reignites your fire and passion for what you love. When my injury happened I had started to resent my training and was really struggling with my “why” for wanting to run a marathon. I hope that I will never do that again – marathoning is incredible. I can’t and won't take running for granted – every single step, no matter the pace, is a gift.

Finishing at the Princess Half earlier this year

I thank my lucky stars (and God) daily that I have not had to deal with any major injuries during the time I have been running {but I guess dealing with a chronic illness is difficult enough}. Running has been such a major part of my life for the past 5 years that I know I would probably be a wreck during the recovery process. I love the Alissa was able to shift her perspective and realize she was no longer the runner she was before, but that doesn't make her less of a runner. If you want to follow her journey, make sure to find her on the social media platforms you use: Instagram, FacebookTwitter.

Have you ever dealt with a running injury?


Caitlin said...

I'm slowly (emphasis on the word slowly!) getting back into running after being forced to take 4 months off due to a back injury. I relate to Alissa's story so much and it's just what I needed to hear!

Laura said...

I am also just getting back to running after having to take 4 months off for a femur stress fracture. Talk about a blow. I was also supposed to be leaving tomorrow for first time ever qualifying. I’m not a naturally fast or gifted runner, it’s a struggle for me just to run a full. Let alone BQ. I hope to someday requalify and go. But for now I’m just happy to run my slower-than-usual pace 5 milers lol. Thanks for the great post.