Finding Identity After Injuries: You Are Not What You Do

It was October 11, 2014: the night before the Chicago Marathon. My clothes for the race were laid out in opposite order so I could just wake up and dress; my pre-race breakfast of half a bagel and grape jelly ready to be assembled. I set my alarm clock for 4 a.m. and tried to get some sleep, because anyone in their right mind would not be running 26.2 miles the next day if they were in the same pain that I was in.

Or, you who runs in a lot of pain.

Or, you know….one who runs in a lot of pain.

I’ve been dealing with chronic plantar fasciitis in my left foot for about three years.  Let me explain the pain: with every step you take, it feels like your heel is striking the tip of a knife when you walk.  When the pain first came in on, I saw a podiatrist. We tried all the regular home remedies: rest, frozen water bottle, spiky ball, golf ball, sleeping with a boot on, Straussburg sock. Nothing helped. He gave me a cortisone shot or two to get me through whatever half marathon I was doing at the time and it worked as a quick fix.

But it kept coming back. I was training for the Boston Marathon in 2013 when it really flared up, so I went to a chiropractor. Within about 12 sessions using Graston Technique, I was feeling significantly better. I ran the race (well about 21 miles of it, anyway, due to the bombing) and felt fine. I kept up my running and ran a half marathon in February 2014 – a race in which I recorded a personal best half marathon time – and the Boston Marathon in 2014 without any significant problems.

Things were going well and I was feeling great, so I decided to start training for Chicago in 2014.  In July 2014 I ran a half marathon in Maine and did okay – I wanted more for myself that day but it was hot and I felt my plantar fasciitis flaring up again. What I didn’t know was that race would be my last long run for quite a long time.

The next month, I went to a new podiatrist in absolute agony. I couldn’t get past more than 8 miles in a long run because I was in that much pain – and let me tell you, I can take a lot of pain. We decided to attack the injury from all angles: cortisone shots, physical therapy, switching up the sneakers, literally anything that MIGHT work – we tried. But I still had to train for the marathon, and I was NOT going to quit.

Luckily I had a physical therapist (who also happens to be my boss’ wife) who made a huge difference in my recovery. Even as I experienced a PF flare up in the OTHER foot (can’t even tell you how frustrating that was) she encouraged me and really worked with me to get me to a place where I felt confident I could run 26.2 miles. I saw her twice a week and I squeaked in a 17 mile long run – the longest since my half in July and the longest before I would run before I tried to run 26.2 – a few weeks before Chicago.

Don't let this smile fool you, I was in a lot of pain. Note all the KT Tape on my calves. There was a lot more tape on my feet.

Don’t let this smile fool you, I was in a lot of pain. Note all the KT Tape on my calves. There was a lot more tape on my feet.

But I was not pain free. I landed in Chicago and went to the race expo to pick up my number and I was in pain just walking around. I stood in line at the KT Tape booth (which, if you’re injured, definitely check it out) and they taped up both my feet. Somehow I felt about ten pounds lighter and it was such a great feeling, but it didn’t last longer than a few miles into the marathon.

I finished the 26.2 miles, in a lot of pain, but I did it. Now what? I knew I had to rest…and I’m not just talking about my normal 2-4 weeks of rest after a marathon. I needed to rest. Like, for a few months at the very least. I continued in physical therapy through the end of December, when I was finally discharged after 5 months.

But I am a runner, I thought, and who even am I if I’m not running? It was all I’d known for four years of my life. I was in a dark place when I couldn’t run. I was depressed, eating garbage, not really moving aside from swimming a couple times a week, and I felt like I was losing myself as a person. I gained about 15lbs.

Disgusted with myself, (see prior post re: scale crying), I decided to try something else. I’d gotten increasingly interested in martial arts due to a friend of mine who was really into it, and so I stepped foot inside Shawn Pacheco Professional Martial Arts Academy. I took a kickboxing class just before Christmas and haven’t looked back since. I’ve lost almost 10lbs in about six weeks, I’m happier, eating cleaner, and being so incredibly fulfilled doing an activity that isn’t running.

Look, the point of this post isn’t to brag about how great I feel or what I’m doing now that I can’t run nearly as much as I used to.

The point is: you are not defined by what you do.

You are not defined by the medals hanging on your wall from all your races. You aren’t defined by your injury, your doctor’s bills, the number on the scale or anything else.

You are defined by the way you feel and the energy you put into the universe. Are you a positive person? Are you someone who others look to for inspiration and motivation? Are you someone who other people want to be around and look up to? Are you doing everything in your power to take care of yourself and feel the best possible way that you can feel?

I strive to be those things. I hope I’m inspiring even one person to do those things too. xoxo

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