After decades of pounding the pavement and logging countless miles, getting injured while running is almost inevitable. Getting injured and then trying to run, when you are stubbornly addicted to running, is also pretty much inevitable.
I've experienced both, and those who know me well are probably rolling their eyes at the thought of taking advice from me about attending to injuries and allowing oneself the luxury of a proper recovery. I'm notoriously remiss even about icing an injury. I can see my sister right now, eyes rolled back in her head, sputtering as she asks, "Are you finally getting wise in your old age and listening to reason?"
Other than occasional shin splints and sore muscles, which don't really count as injuries, and time off for pregnancy and birth, I lasted a very long time without needing an extended break from running.
Then, I hit an unlucky streak. At least that's my story.
I mentioned in a previous column that qualifying for the Boston Marathon was on my bucket list. I've always thought running Boston for charity is a wonderful thing, but I've also always said the only way I would do Boston is if I earned it through a qualifying time.
When I turned 40, I ran a sub-4:00 marathon, but I needed to do that same time at age 45 in a qualifying race like the Hartford Marathon to make it to Boston.
My training was going fabulously the summer I turned 45. I was clearly on track, logging miles and times better than I had five years earlier. Until I fell off my flip flop.
That little ankle twist en route to the beach was followed by an 18-miler the next morning. Yes, it was a bit painful when I set out, but nothing a few Advil couldn't fix — or so I thought.
I finished the 18 miles, although partway through I knew that if I stopped running for even a minute I would have to call my husband to pick me up.
Adrenaline carried me through the run, shower, lunch, and a somewhat gimpy walk down to the beach. After a few hours sitting, I practically had to be carried back to the house since my now obviously sprained ankle was swollen, bruised, and unable to support my weight.
Seven weeks later I managed a semi-painful Hartford Half Marathon. No full marathon that year. No Boston either.
Three years ago I was in the throes of another attempt to qualify for Boston by running the Hartford Marathon. My long runs, including the first 20-miler, were going really well, and I was confident that this would be the year.
Labor Day weekend I helped my sister move. Someone dropped a piece of furniture on the top of my foot, but it didn't hurt too badly. Then I twisted my back. I took four Advil the next morning (for my back) and ran 20 miles. I ran all week, popping Advil for my back.
Early the following Saturday my foot felt strange when I left the house for a quick six miles. No cell phone. I thought maybe my sock was bunched up, or my shoe wasn't laced quite right.
About 2.5 miles from home I immediately knew what the snap was.
I ran/walked/hobbled the 2.5 miles back home since the streets were pretty empty at 6:30 a.m. and I had no way to summon a ride.
What probably began as a minor stress fracture incurred from the impact of a falling hutch turned into a partially displaced, completely broken third metatarsal.
No marathon that year either. And no running at all for six months.
I finally became a good (well ... better) patient and took it easy after my doctor threatened surgery on what was becoming a non-union fracture. In retrospect, the hike up the Heublein Tower trail in my air cast was probably not the smartest idea.
This summer I broke my wrist while on vacation. I didn't do it while running (although that was the natural assumption), and it was really just a stupid household accident caused by slipping on a wet spot while walking through a completely dark room wearing wedge sandals.
Once I got my lovely pink cast (courtesy of the fabulous and highly-regarded Dr. Raymond Rocco Monto at the Nantucket Cottage Hospital) I asked about running, afraid of the response.
Dr. Monto actually said I could run. And so did my doctor back home. So I have, cast and all.
I wasn't planning on a marathon this year, and I think Boston has been crossed off my bucket list after watching my husband run it in 90-degree weather.
I could probably run the Hartford Half Marathon this October, but I haven't really been training. I've just been running because I enjoy it, and it's great exercise, and I feel better mentally and physically when I am running regularly.
And next time a doctor, or my body, tells me to take a break from running to let an injury heal, I will do it. It's better to rest an injury and let it heal properly.
Please remind me of this.