Tales of Running: The Injury Edition

While such things are bound to happen when one engages in athletic training (or rather just in the course of life), it is still a major disappointment when one ends up with an injury.  Thus rather than regular updates about my runs during May such as the marathon and the half-marathon I had lined up, I'm writing about my injury.  To pour salt on the literal (though not open) wound, I sustained the injury while not running.  For many athletes, that's the pinnacle of disappointments when it comes to running (Ok, I can't really say this with any certainty but it would seem that injuring one's self while doing the thing you love to do is somehow more acceptable.  

No Running sign:  Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/3927422138/
Several days after I did my personal best half-marathon, I was running.  I ran about 13 miles that day and was doing things around the apartment.  I had a crick in my neck from the night before and was doing some rigorous work around the apartment when I felt a my whole left shoulder and neck area flair up in pain.  It was pretty nasty but tolerable in the moment.  Over the next few days, the pain didn't really subside and by the weekend, it was clear that I couldn't lift my arm more than a foot from my body.  

So off I went to the interwebs to investigate and it seemed to align with a torn rotator cuff.  I contacted and made an appointment with my primary care person who seemed to think it was something along those lines and sent me to an orthopedic doctor.  His thoughts varied from what else was said.  He believes it's a scapula tear of some sort with leakage that has caused a cyst (of liquid) that is putting pressure on the nerves.  Because it was just speculation, he sent me off to get an MRI and will follow up with an appointment with him next week.  

Whether it is a torn rotator cuff, a torn scapula or something else, I am out of the long-distance running game for a couple months.  Since much of it is likely to require surgery and recovery from that will be 2-3 months depending.  Given that said surgery is at least a month away from today (as in, it hasn't been planned yet), that's going to kill this year's prospects of hitting my running goals.  That, of course, is quite disappointing and while I know it's a minor set-back in the big picture of life (after all, I am hugely grateful that I have healthcare to cover the various procedures and costs as well as a workplace that doesn't demand much physically), it is still frustrating (never mind the continued pain I feel day-to-day).  

Up until this week, I had not run for 3 weeks.  I had waited until I saw the orthopedic doctor to find out if running was going to do more damage to the injury and then, However, the doctor said that running was going to be ok so long as it didn't hurt.  I chose to relax most of the weekend, recognizing that the injury has taken a mental and emotional toll on me.    I finally decided to go for a run on Monday, followed by one on Tuesday and Thursday.  All the runs were hard to some degree.  It was clear my legs were itching to run but I noticed my breathing needed some time to get back into rhythm and also that my arm cadence was a bit off.  My feet too needed to re-toughen up (that is, I have a few blisters from not having worn the Vibrams in 3 weeks).  I think my arm was ok with the swing but that I was just overly sensitive to any and all arm movement because of the shoulder.  Overall, it felt wonderful to be back running.  I know I will only get to do this up until I have surgery and I limit myself to the 3-5 mile range but I'm still relieved to get in what running I can.  

Injuries are tricky things.  They remind us of our limitations and fragility as humans.  They challenge a great many things we take for granted about ourselves and our bodies (e.g. lifting your arm) and can be humbling.  The injury has been a good reminder about challenges and limitations others face regularly as a result of injury, disability, or even age.   Several weeks of constant pain and I'm raw and extremely vulnerable.  I cannot even fathom what it would be like for that number to be months or years but it does help to give me a glimmer of understanding.  

The prospect of being down for several months is a challenge.  As running has become a central part of my life and routine, I find it's temporary loss sad and worry about how recovery will be and how I might get back to where I am know.  I'm sure it will all work out but that doesn't keep the mind from wandering.  So I guess for now this is the last of my running updates for a few months.  

How have you dealt with injury and recovery process?  What advice do can you give?  How do you keep perspective?

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