2 years… 2 whole years was the amount of time that it took for me to completely heal and run properly again. Not because my injury was expected to have a long recovery time but because quite frankly I was (in lack of a better term) an idiot when it came to my recovery.
Now imagine, it’s your grade 11 year of high school, you’re talking to college coaches about furthering your athletic career and this is the year to really prove what you’ve got. You cross the finish line in the 1500m steeplechase… 4:46 a new Canadian high school record. Those emotions going through your head are sweeping you away from reality.
Well this was the situation I was in accept one small problem. My foot was in excruciating pain. I still had 800m prelims (and hopefully finals) the next day and there was no way I was giving in now. An ice bath and some advil would have to suffice.
I ran the next day and it went alright. I can’t complain about my time or my placing, but now even to walk had me wincing in pain. However, did I stop there? OH HECK NO. In my head I was not getting rid of my summer competition goals and this was just something I was going to run through and not tell anyone about. I kept telling myself that it was only a pulled muscle or that I tied my shoes too tight and my foot was bruised.
I kept training and by the next week I couldn’t even walk at all. At this point I knew I had to go to the hospital. “Stress fracture”
That was what came out of the doctors mouth and was now as if in stone, engraved into my mind. My summer was over. I kept telling myself that everything was now over. My racing let alone my college career. I thought surely no college coach would want me with this injury lingering over my head.
Here is where my own stupidity comes into play. I thought to myself
What if they never know?
After 2 weeks completely off my foot (supposed to be 6-8 weeks) I drove to Windsor to a regional club meet where I was going to try and appeal past this stage as this was the first of 2 meets to qualify for the provincial team. I showed up still in my boot and on crutches, but after talking with the officials they said there was nothing they could guarantee.
I wasn’t going to accept that… I took off my boot, spiked up and raced (idiot). Well I won and broke the meet record as well as my foot again, throwing all my progress down the drain only to be disqualified for stepping out of bounds.
In the meantime I had told college coaches I was taking the summer off after having a long year of running. For now that would have to do.
I really didn’t stay off my foot because of being the stubborn person that I am. I just learned how to walk on the outside of my foot to avoid the pain. A month and a half later off of absolutely no training I decided I was than going to run provincials.
After provincials, I somehow managed to convince my dad to fly me half way across the country to go to nationals and again with no training (now into August) was going to race.
After crossing the finish line of the 1500m in 4:48 (slower than I had ran 1500m steeple earlier this season) it started to set in just how out of shape I was at this point. Regardless I still had the 3km and 2km steeple left at this meet.
The next day in the 3km I was about 4 laps in when I felt the oh so familiar shooting pain through my foot. I at this point didn’t realize how much I was limping but apparently it was very noticeable because I could hear my dad as well as some coaches screaming at me from the stands to drop out. A trip to the hospital later and (drum role please) it was re-fractured!
To sum up the rest of this story, I was out until December of that year (6 months total) and in the process was doing my official visits. Like I said earlier no coaches knew of the condition I was in and I had to maintain this on my visits as well. I would take off the boot when I went on my visits and would actually run while I was there, setting myself back yet again.
I didn’t really train much my last year of high school, as my foot was painful to run on and I couldn’t get in any quality training but stupidly still tried to jump right into racing for the outdoor high school season. i ended up re-fracturing it… AGAIN in May of 2018.
I had now signed with WVU and was too scared to tell my coach what was going on in fear he would get upset or just simply drop me so I stopped contacting him… and all of my future teammates. This was probably single-handedly the biggest mistake I made.
Coaches and teammates are only there to help you get better! Coaches want to know when you’re struggling so that they can help you get through the tough times. While, yes they are there to ultimetely help you excel in your sport, this cannot happen if you can’t a) train properly or b) mentally aren’t okay. They want the best for you as an athlete and this starts by establishing trust. You can’t gain trust from them either if you don’t give a little as well. Trusting in your coaches compassion as well as wisdom and knowledge will help build the relationship needed for success.
I finally got back in contact with my coach and teammates a week before I went to school. This is also when I started training again after almost a full year of really nothing. I was so so out of shape and knew that I had to come clean about everything that had been going on and where I was mentally as well as physically at this point.
I was very fortunate that he was super understanding about everything. As of now, in August 2019… more than 2 years later I can say I’m officially 100% pain free and healthy.
Now what was the point of that big long story?
What athletes don’t realize is that the toughest part of injuries really is the mental effects which stem from the injury, not the recovery itself. The questions you ask yourself… the what if’s and the self-doubt.
I did it to myself… I had myself wrapped up in all of these unrealistic horror stories and because of this I prolonged my 6-8 week recovery into 2 full years. Don’t scare yourself with the what-if’s, let things happen as they do and worry about things when they actually happen. You cannot control what has already happened but the road to recovery has no short-cuts (I can assure you if there were any short cuts I would’ve figured that out by now as I tried anything and everything to speed up my recovery).
After talking to my coach about this, these were his words (maybe not exactly but you get the point). “You had the times, you showed your potential and nothing can take that away from you. If high school is the peak of your career than why are you running post secondary.” Think about it… the whole goal is to get better than you are now, so why be so concerned about racing at your current level when you’ll be racing at an even higher level in the future.
Being injured can make you feel isolated. You watch your teammates training and competing while you sit out on the sidelines. It can feel like you’re all alone and personally… it sent me into a depression. First year was a struggle but by talking to my teammates and coach, I found some ways to still be involved and active on the team
Some ways you can still keep yourself involved while injured are:
- Go to workouts and help time reps or simply just cheer your teammates on
- Complete and take your cross training seriously
- Travel to meets with the team and yell out words of encouragement from the sidelines
- Use the opportunity to learn how to balance other things like school with athletics, correct nutrition or even start to practice regular healthy habits (sleep schedule & nutrition etc.)
When you’re injured, do not feel embarrassed to reach out to your coaches or teammates or even friends about how you feel. Learning from experience, keeping it all pent up only makes it worse. Your team is there for you and they want to see you succeed just as much as you want them to. You’re like a family and helping each other through these times is all part of it.
Injuries may feel like the end of the world at the time, but if you do the cross training and let your body heal properly than you will come back stronger and fitter than you were before (With some runs back after and training of course)!
Mentally, injury taught me to also never ever take my sport or fitness for granted again. It is such a privilege to be able to compete at the level I do. Fitness is not given, it is earned through hard work and dedication.
You are not alone when injured either. It is not your end and you will most definitely get through it. However, if there is one thing I can emphasize it is please listen to your coach and doctor. Take the time off and let your body heal properly, the rest will fall into place as it is supposed to.
Before injury, my identity was only that of an athlete (or so I thought). Because of this, after injury I isolated myself and withdrew from social life. I learned through this though that I am more than just a runner. That goes for everyone.
We are all individuals before we are runners. Running is a passion but it is not everything and it does not define who you are! You are the same person inside and out whether you are running or not.