The Running-While-Injured Life

We typically utilize this space describing all of the benefits of running – however, sometimes it might be possible to have too much of a good thing.

Many avid runners become so hooked on the sport that it often consumes their thoughts. Sure, a hardcore runner may appear alert and attentive on the surface - but it’s a good bet that internally, that otherwise normal-appearing person is completely preoccupied with all manner of details pertaining to his or her running.

They’ll spend countless waking hours thinking about how many miles they logged today, what their average time for the run was, when and where their next run will be, how many miles they’ve run this week, how much longer it will be until they need a new pair of shoes, which running clothes they need to buy once the weather changes, how much fluid they should be consuming during the day, when their next race is going to be, and whether or not one of those nagging sore areas is going to turn into an injury.

That last point is a critical one – because when a runner develops physical problems, all other concerns get pushed to the back burner. Runners are notorious for having tunnel vision when it comes to focusing on (and worrying about) anything that prevents them from doing the activity they love. Unfortunately, injuries are an all too common occurrence among this crowd.

For example, here’s a typical conversation that might take place between any of our group of friends who cross paths in their everyday (non-running) lives. Let’s say they meet unexpectedly on Alvarado Street this week. They certainly have a wide variety of discussion topics to mull over: the economy, the presidential election, the war, career changes, or family developments. Despite all of that, it’s a virtual certainty that the conversation would unfold something like this:

Joe: “Hi Susie, haven’t seen you for awhile. How are you doing?”

Susie: “Good to see you Joe. I’m OK but I’ve hardly been running at all. My piriformis problem just isn’t going away. I’ve been stretching, doing ice massage, and taking Advil. I’m even going to Bikram yoga a few times a week, which helps for a few hours, but by the next morning it’s bothering me again.”

Joe: “That’s too bad. I haven’t been running much either. My left shin is really painful when I run, and hurts all day long afterward. I had an x-ray and MRI last week and there’s no stress fracture right now but the doc says it looks imminent if I keep running. I don’t think its shin splints. It could be compartment syndrome. I’m seeing my physical therapist but the progress seems really slow. Occasionally I’ll try the elliptical machine but it’s just too boring.”

Susie: “Yeah. It’s really frustrating…. Oh, look, there’s Ted.”

Ted: “What a coincidence. How are you guys? I’ve been decreasing my mileage because of some Achilles tendonitis. Luckily, it’s not a complete tear, but when I run it’s extremely painful. I’m also doing some pool running, but I don’t get the same endorphin high in the water. And I feel like everyone’s laughing at me when I’m wearing my swimsuit.

Joe: “Yeah, I hate it when that happens. My wife just had a knee operation for patellofemoral syndrome and did some pool running during her rehab. She’s favoring her right side a bit now, so her left plantar fascia is becoming a problem. She does ice massage and flexion exercises using toe curls and a towel. It takes about an hour a day - really a hassle.”

Ted: “Hey Susie … how is Dave doing?”

Susie: “He hasn’t been running a lot either. His right hip hurts and he aggravated his left illiotibial band because he was running funny to protect his hip. He’s going to both the physical therapist and chiropractor but he still has problems. He’s also trying myofascial release therapy and it seems to be helping a little.

Ted: “Wow, good luck to him for sure. Did you hear about Rod? He ran a race last month and right near the end he pulled a calf muscle. He had to beat someone in his age group so he gutted it out, but now he’s injured again. He’s doing intermittent heat and ice treatments. He also sees a massage therapist twice a week for really deep muscle work. Hope he gets better soon.”

Joe: “So … are we all running at the regular place tomorrow morning? 12 miles on the Wharf starting at 5AM?

Susie: “Sounds great to me. See you then.”

Ted: “Someone should call Rod and tell him – he’ll probably show up.”

Joe: “Yeah. It will be great to talk with everyone again!”

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