Day #45: Run No More.


“Liu Xiang hopped along the outside of the backstretch on his left leg, his injured right leg tucked behind him, then made his way over to the 10th and final hurdle to give it a kiss.”

 -HOWARD FENDRICH AP Sports Writer ( read more.)

The muscle pulls, the tendon releases, the cough won’t let up and you cannot take a breath… You break your ankle playing football in the yard with the kids, you have surgery for a years-old problem… and you are not able to run.

This is no brief break from your beloved distance running; this feels near-permanent. You are out for at least 6 months. You can run no more.

Imagine this is you. Injury has claimed you – perhaps only weeks from your next big race. Maybe, indeed, injury strikes weeks or even days before your life’s race – the ONE you have been building up to your whole life. The one you had completed the qualifying races for. And now you are out. Sidelined. Jailed.

What do you do? What do you do when the one exercise which is your pure joy and passion is taken from you? How do you proceed?

These scenarios are worth thinking on – for such an injury is coming to a body near you. It is only a matter of time. We are each always in the no-man’s land of somewhat healthy and somewhat injured – if we are training to perform at our best and if we are honest with ourselves. So, what would you do?

I can identify two clear options. First comes the ruined athlete who has suddenly a life-long banishment from his favorite pastime. Most probably this fellow had been way over his head in training – logging miles as much for show and bragging rights as for any benefit they could offer him. He also is likely of the entitled camp – who deserves the best shoes, gu, attire, nonsense, … you get the picture… And his response to the sudden career ending tear in his right achilles is anger, total frustration and a quick impulse to 1.) try to continue to run and thus tear the injury that much more, and 2.) suddenly give up completely on the sport of running, abandoning it for the next entree that passes by. (You know the kind of dude I am describing here;) To sum up, this runner gives up almost before the injury is diagnosed – and he quickly discards his running shoes and so-called passion.

But then there is a second type of runner – the one I aspire to be. This dedicated distance runner is wise and experienced, and therefore calculates a response to this unexpected and career-ending news. Before screaming to the gods of the injustice of this impossible injury, he bows a second to take stock – and gives thanks for the miles run, the bliss of all the miles of trail which led to this moment. And after pausing in gratitude, he gets just a bit pissed off (he is human, after all.) And then he figures out where to go from here.

There are several places to go after a bad injury. After my latest – which had me out for a year – I (as I have previously mentioned) tried to push through. But, months later, resigned to a long rehab, I looked for how to best manage my problem. How to rebound in the wisest way so that I could run again as soon as possible. I also relaxed a bit in contentment, knowing that I had run so many miles, that if I never ran again, at least I knew that I had already run my best. That’s a sweet contentment there.

But the wise runner can also tire of the apparent futility of a long recovery or from the fear of recurrence and give up. These runners need a little inspiration. That’s where blogs like Run5kaday come in, as well as the great stories of great runners past – documented in books and movies. These discouraged runners should remember that there is a time for everything – that there truly is a time to be injured, a time to recover… and that there will come a day when those lost miles will be redeemed – given back. But a quitting attitude will leave that forlorn runner in an attitude unable to accept that amazing grace when it – like the unexpected injury – suddenly appears. I say to you runners in this place, hang in there!

So, what is the wise and patient runner to do when injury strikes? As I have implied before: if I can’t run, I walk; if I can’t walk, I crawl; if I can’t crawl I find something with wheels to get me where I am supposed to go. And if no wheels manifest themselves, I consider optimistically what I am supposed to do next. Never losing hope. Never giving up. Always seeing that there is a purpose, too, in this injury.

Get out there and run — because you can!


~Coach Reed

PS – by the way, THANK YOU for reading my blog!

image credit: kshb