Say that fives times fast.
All snarkiness aside, running and I haven’t really been getting along lately. For just about a year, in fact. Over the last couple of weeks, Facebook memories has been reminding me of that pesky little pain in my foot that I thought would be just fine after a few days of rest and stretching. I was mistaken. I spent the following six months downing tart cherry juice, stretching my calves six times a day, donning my beloved Strassburg sock every night, and enduring multiple rounds of shockwave therapy.
Somewhere between the summer of 2011 and the winter of 2016, running became my life, for better or for worse. Not being able to run was debilitating, both mentally and physically.
Sure, I had been injured before, but plantar fasciitis seemed so much more severe than my other injuries. This was confirmed by the reactions of others when I told them why I was no longer logging miles in preparation for a fast spring half marathon. The contorted faces, and sympathetic “awwwww” that inevitably followed, along with tales of commiseration about that one time they knew another runner who had gotten plantar fasciitis, blah, blah, blah…To be honest, I stopped paying attention. To make matters worse, there was no timeline for a full recovery. My health care practitioners said that recovery time varies from several weeks, to months and years. In severe cases, surgery is required.
As the weeks ticked by and my goal races for the spring slipped further and further away, I settled into a winter-long funk. My plans changed from, “I want a marathon PB in the spring” to “Maybe I’ll do a fast half instead” to “I really just want to be able to finish a half pain-free” to “I give up.” I settled on the last one for a long, long time. In retrospect, I was pretty unbearable to be around most days, and my boyfriend deserves a freaking medal for putting up with me. Of course, I ate and drank my feelings until my clothes no longer fit. And so it goes.
Winter turned to spring, and before I knew it, I was running out of time to build for the SeaWheeze half marathon. My plantar fasciitis eventually calmed and I was able to rebuild my running. With the exception of one long run where I was slightly uncomfortable for the last 3 km, I was pain-free. I ran the race without incident, a painful 29 minutes slower than my PB.
My attitude towards running shifted. When I could no longer run, I appreciated it more, but I also realized how big a part of my life it was. At the same time, I hated it for this injury it had handed me. If I couldn’t run, what would I do with my time? Would my running friends still be my friends? What would happen to me if I couldn’t run marathons anymore? Note from current self with perspective: Running does not (or should not) define who you are and dictate your life. At least, that’s my new m.o.
As I was healing, my threshold for running was pain. I was only permitted to run when I had been pain-free the day before, had absolutely no pain upon waking in the morning, and I had to stop immediately if I had any pain whatsoever on the run. On days when I received shockwave therapy, I had to take two complete rest days afterwards. I had never known running to have so many rules. I knew it was all for the best to help me heal faster, but it was unsettling. How long was this going to take? There were no definitive answers.
Since I had no way of knowing whether or not I would wake in pain or develop pain mid-run, running became a complete wild card to me. Almost every night, I went to bed with a knot in my stomach. Would my foot hurt tomorrow? Would tomorrow be a running day? I wished hard every night to wake up pain-free.
I am someone who thrives on routine and structure, so you can imagine how awful this was for me. If I couldn’t plan my day-to-day training, what would a race schedule look like? I had already registered for several shorter distance races and completed most of them. They were mostly 5km races with an occasional 10km and a relay position. I posted some of my worst race times last winter and spring. I no longer enjoyed running, and it showed.
Now that I am trying to ramp up my triathlon training and things have been *mostly* all quiet on the plantar fasciitis front, I’ve got some perspective on my running. I recently came to the conclusion that running has become something I could no longer trust. Every ache in my calf or foot sends my mind into overdrive and worrying that I will wake up the next day in pain. Still, a year later. Maybe I will always be like this with running now. As I train for a 30km race (a distance that I’ve run many times and raced a couple of times), I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. The difference this time around is, I’ve got two other disciplines to focus on, so if running goes down the tubes, I’ll spend more time in the pool and on my bike.
It’s taking more time than I would like, but I’m learning to fall in love with running again. Occasionally, I will feel a bit of my old running self emerge again, especially when I’m running long. Other days, I struggle to get out the door and get discouraged by slower paces. It’s going to be a slow burn for me to get back to where I was with my running. Maybe I’m not meant to get back to where I was? Maybe this is a whole new chapter in my running life.
Have you ever had plantar fasciitis? What helped you heal?