The thing about running injuries is that they feel like they’re never going to end. Like you’ll never see the other side of the thing; that every day you wake up and the pain is there, it feels permanent. That the physical and emotional suffering is forever. When I’m injured, sometimes I completely forget what it feels like to be pain-free. It’s the worst.
In college I sat out nearly an entire track season with the most excruciating IT band pain I’d ever experienced. I swam more laps in the pool that year trying to maintain a shred of fitness than I ever had during my four years as a high school swimmer. But eventually, and miraculously, I recovered. Eventually, after 100 years of ellipticalling and icing and stretching, I ran again.
With this latest injury, well, I feel like I’m in the dead center of that recovery century.
For the past four weeks, I’ve dealt with, what my physical therapist believes, is Morton’s Neuroma—a nerve irritation between my toes that sends shooting pain down the top of my foot and underneath my second and third toes. Every step is agony, whether I’m walking, running, stretching, and sometimes even riding the bike if I jog out of the saddle.
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this pain. It flared up back in early 2018, but I didn’t go to a PT at the time for a diagnosis; I remember I switched shoes and did a lot more of my runs on concrete when it was at its worst, and I think that is what’s happening here again. I also run on the outside of my right foot, which my PT thinks is causing my toes to crunch up together and put strain on that nerve. That makes sense, too, based on my treadmill assessment from a few weeks ago. I don’t remember how long this pain lasted the first time, and I really wish I could remember what I did to make it go away.
During my appointment last Wednesday, my PT taped a small pad onto the insert of my running shoe. He told me to try it out for a few days to see if it made a difference. It wouldn’t be a fix-all, he said, so if I didn’t notice a difference, I should just remove it and keep resting the foot as much as possible. Well, the pad hasn’t helped and neither has resting it. And neither did the heated light therapy my PT performed before I left his office. I didn’t expect long-term benefits from that one session, but a girl can dream.
Since Wednesday I’ve tried icing the area and rolling my foot over a TriggerPoint ball when I’m at home. I’ve elevated it on a pillow while I’m watching movies and massaging it here and there when it feels tight…but nothing seems to make my foot happy, which means I haven’t really been super happy these last few weeks.
Which is why I stopped writing for a while.
Prior to this injury I had really been progressing with running. I was incorporating my PT techniques into my runs and working on different stretches and exercises at home. I started to feel better on the run and even ran several miles in a row without stopping, which I hadn’t done in years. Things were going so well…until they weren’t, and it killed me to write about the pain I was in, the boring trainer rides I was doing on my bike in my living room, the freshly washed running shorts that sat unused in my hamper. I didn’t want to write about it because I didn’t want to face it anywhere other than in my brain, in my empty apartment. I tried to run a little this morning after giving my foot several days off again. I headed to a high school track a couple blocks from me and ran laps on the soft in-field turf. It didn’t go well; I felt heavy and out of shape and my foot hurt almost the whole way. And I pouted the whole way home, limping and babying my right foot.
That’s where I’m at right now.
And it sucks.
I guess a couple things that don’t suck are the sunset bike rides I took last week. The weather has been very good to us; I can’t remember another November when we didn’t have ice and snow covering the streets and sidewalks. After long days of work, it was nice to get out and enjoy some fresh air for a short time before it got too dark and too cold.
Another great day was a couple weekends ago when I spent the morning with a friend and her cute puppy at my favorite coffee shop called Moxie. That was a nice distraction from not doing my usual long trail run.
My foot will heal just like it has so many times in the past, even though it doesn’t feel like it. If you’re going through an injury right now, remember it’s not forever, and I’m there with you.
What do you do to stay sane during an injury?